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Montana schools, other groups making contingency plans for coronavirus

Posted: 10:41 PM, Mar 04, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-05 16:09:30-05

BILLINGS- Schools in Montana are reviewing contingency plans if the coronavirus is detected nearby, organizers of an upcoming college basketball tournament in Billings are monitoring if it should take place and Billings firefighters aren't going to an event in Seattle.

The coronavirus is already impacting people in Montana.

Montana High School Association Executive Director Mark Beckman issued a statement Wednesday for school districts to review information from the Centers for Disease Control on coronavirus.

Also, schools are instructed to be in contact with their local health departments to discuss contingency plans in the event of closures or school, practice, or tournament closures, according to local health officials.

"What you really want to do is stop the opportunity to spread. It spreads by droplets. When people sneeze or cough, the droplets are aerosolized and they can make other people sick. If people are very ill and need to be hospitalized, then, of course they receive the care in the hospitals, also focusing on that idea of keeping them isolated and keeping others away," RiverStone Health President and Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton said.

Montana's health department lab in Helena is now able to do testing for the coronavirus. The lab is among the recipients for the 2,500 kits distributed nationwide.

"I think it is a little misleading when we talk about kits, because when we refer to kits, it's the test for this particular virus. It's not something you can go to the drugstore and buy, it's not something you can do on your own. A physician would evaluate and determine if this testing is appropriate, just like how they would determine if any testing was appropriate," Felton said.

Washington state has felt the hardest impact of the coronavirus, with nine reported deaths at a nursing home at a Seattle suburb and the number of reported cases rising.

Organizers have canceled the Leukemia Lymphoma Society's Firefighter Stair Climb in Seattle this weekend. Eight firefighters from Billings had planned to attend, and it's unclear if the event will be rescheduled.

Many firefighters still plan on traveling and possibly doing the climb without their gear on, or doing something relating to the climb's 69 floors. Q2 will report any updates.

Back here in Billings, the NAIA Women's Tournament is supposed to be taking place two weekends from now at the First Interstate Bank Arena. Organizers say it's still a go.

Visit Billings Executive Director Alex Tyson said Wednesday that MetraPark has been in contact with RiverStone Health and Billings officials are in communication with the NAIA and monitor CDC and World Health Organization updates each day.