On Thursday morning, Ravalli County Public Health reported 82 new positive cases of COVID-19.
It was the highest number yet of new cases in a single day, but the county’s public health director, Tiffany Webber, said people will likely see those numbers continue to go up dramatically.
The nurses working at the public health office have 444 positive laboratory results they need to review before adding them to the case count. Webber said those results have to be vetted to ensure there aren’t duplicates.
The county’s public health department official count of active cases stood at 405 Thursday, but Webber said some of those cases are likely people who have already completed their isolation period and need to be removed from the list.
Webber said her office is working as quickly as it can to keep up with the ever-changing numbers, but it’s challenging when there are only two full-time registered nurses — including herself — in the office.
“We are working as hard as we can to get it all cleaned up,” she said. “It’s not like we are sitting here knitting sweaters.”
COVID-19 cases have been on a steep upward trend over the last seven weeks.
On Oct. 1, the county had 24 active cases. In its daily press release on that day, public health reported four new cases.
Early in the pandemic, Webber said public health nurses tracked all COVID cases on a whiteboard. The cases included information on when they are diagnosed and when they were scheduled to come off isolation.
“When October rolled around, we couldn’t put all the names on the whiteboard anymore,” Webber said.
Last weekend, the county added 137 new cases and another 59 on Monday. Webber doesn’t believe Ravalli County is anywhere near the COVID-19 plateau.
“We know that most of these people will do fine,” she said. “The worst part of it is not just that people could die, but our resources are also being used up. It’s why we’re behind and people get mad at us when we don’t return their call. We just don’t have enough nurses to call everyone.”
Besides the two full-time registered nurses who work in the public health office and two full-time administrative staff, Ravalli County Public Health has been getting help from three retired nurses “who come in when they can and offer us support,” Webber said.
Last week, two student nurses began working two days a week to help. After Thanksgiving, Webber said those student nurses will start working full time.
“There is nothing more wonderful than a student nurse,” Webber said. “They work so hard. They are so enthusiastic and with minimal instruction, they just take off.”
Webber said the public health department’s current priority is contacting people with new positive cases. Public health nurses interview those positive cases, provide isolation instructions and quarantine recommendations to household contacts.
The Public Health Department is encouraging residents diagnosed with COVID-19 to contact any close contact who may have been exposed. Close contact instructions can be found at the Ravalli County website https://ravalli.us/. Click on the black bar marked COVID 19.
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