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Billings health officials recommend voluntary visitor restrictions at hospitals

Posted at 4:56 PM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 16:21:35-05

Billings-area health officials are recommending temporary, voluntary restrictions of visitors to area health-care facilities to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.

John Felton, Yellowstone County's health officer, noted that no cases of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, a respiratory disease, have been reported in Montana, but the flu season has been worse than usual statewide.

The voluntary visitor restrictions apply to:

  • All children and young adults under the age of 18 (hospital restrictions may vary).
  • All children and young adults under the age of 18 (hospital restrictions may vary).
  • People who have recently come into close contact with anyone who was ill with colds, flu or other respiratory symptoms.

The recommendations extend to hospitals, clinics, long-term care and assisted-living facilities.

The alert was put out by the Unified Health Command, which consists of Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare, RiverStone Health and Yellowstone County Disaster and Emergency Services. The group was formed in response to rising coronavirus cases in the nation.

The voluntary restrictions will remain in place until there's a decline in overall cases of flu and other respiratory diseases in Montana.

The Unified Health Command also offered guidelines for healthy visitors to medical facilities:

  • Clean your hands before and after visiting a patient.
  • Always cover your cough and use a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
  • Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing.

In addition, health officials recommend everyone take these everyday precautions to prevent the spread of infectious diseases:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or coughing into your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay at home if you’re sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly, including countertops and sinks.