Health officials urge caution, common sense

by Kianna Gardner
| March 19, 2020 10:33 AM

Public health officials are urging Montanans not to panic during the coronavirus outbreak, but to exercise caution and common sense.

Leaders in health care are asking that people practice social distancing in order to avoid transmission of coronavirus, or COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should maintain a distance of 6 feet from one another. In addition, people should avoid gatherings larger than 10 people, practice self-isolating and work from home, if possible. Covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing hands thoroughly and often, avoiding touching one’s face and practicing regular sanitizing of light fixtures, door handles and other frequently touched surfaces are all recommended as well.

According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, shortness of breath and coughing, and these may occur up to 14 days after exposure.

If you believe you are experiencing symptoms, you can call the Flathead City-County Health Department at 406-751-8188 at or Kalispell Regional Healthcare’s 24-hour call center at 406-890-7272.

“Most patients infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms such as fever, cough, and muscle aches and are advised to stay at home and rest, drink plenty of fluids, self-isolate, and take over-the-counter medicines to treat their symptoms,” said Doug Nelson, chief medical officer for Kalispell Regional. “Patients with moderate symptoms who feel they need medical attention should visit one of the screening sites. Patients who develop severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, dehydration, or extreme weakness are encouraged to seek emergency care.”

The hospital has also set up dedicated screening sites for those with respiratory systems. The two locations are located in Kalispell at Family Health Care at 1287 Burns Way and in Whitefish at Flathead Valley Orthopedics at 710 13th St. E. Both locations are identified by “Respiratory Screening Facility” signage.

If you, like many others, are feeling overwhelmed with information about COVID-19 or are tired of working from home and self-isolating, officials recommend that you spend time outdoors going for walks, riding bikes or maybe hiking.

Kalispell Regional Healthcare and other local resources have posted information on how to cope with stress surrounding the outbreak, how to help more isolated populations such as older adults manage loneliness and other emotions, how to keep kids entertained at home during school closures and more. These can be found at