The Ravalli County Public Health Nurse's office has been swamped with telephone calls from "the worried well" - people who are not sick with COVID-19, but are trying to get reliable information on how to stay well. There are no reported corona virus cases in Ravalli County or in Montana, as of Wednesday morning. Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Neoma Greenfield said the Ravalli County Public Health Nurses Office has been meeting with schools, Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital and retirement homes. She said the county's schools and the Hamilton hospital have good preparations in place and more is being done at the nursing homes. She told the Ravalli County Commissioners at a March 11 meeting that the county offices need to ramp up preparations before the COVID-19 virus appears in what the World Health Organization is now calling a world pandemic.

County commissioners Chris Hoffman, Greg Chilcott and Jeff Burrows voted to increase staffing at the Public Health Department and to grant health department requests for more information on the Ravalli County and Ravalli County Sheriff's Office websites, including links to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services and the national Centers for Disease Control. Greenfield will also coordinate public information statements from the county. She said people should already be following the simple guidelines that apply to flu season - cough into your elbow, wash your hands frequently and limit touching your face, and most importantly, if you are sick, stay home. Dr. Carol Calderwood said that regular soap was just as effective as (hard-to-find) anti-bacterial substances to wash your hands. Dr. Greenwood said that if you do get sick, stay home. The usual rule is to wait at least 24 hours after your temperature returns to normal.

The doctors did not call for cancelling any public gatherings. Instead, Greenfield said, "Common sense...thoughtfulness...don't react with emotion. We can handle this - we're Montanans."

Ravalli County department heads are being advised to prepare a plan for a possible shortage of staff due to sickness. The county has already established contact with the state and other counties and will continue to strengthen those connections.

The Montana Department of Health and Human Services corona virus website.

The Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 website.