No one has been more front and center in the COVID-19 battle in Yellowstone County than county Health Officer John Felton. As we head into the month of May, Felton talked to Q2 about the progress that has been made and what may lie ahead.
“We’ve learned about how to limit the spread of the virus,” Felton said Thursday.
Felton says the social distancing that most of us have become accustomed to has worked. Yellowstone County began April with 30 cases of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, and added another 50 cases in the course of the month. Two people died.
“I think that Billings and Yellowstone County have done remarkably well. There are certainly people who think it is too much and have objected. Awe are still Americans we have the right to disagree,” said Felton.
Some businesses that had been closed by Gov. Steve Bullock's order began opening this week. Restaurants, bars, and casinos, which closed March 17 on Felton's order, follow on Monday.
“We won’t know the effects of the first phase of reopening for about two to three weeks until cases start to come out, so it takes some time due to the incubation time of the disease. There’s no timeline on it. I know people really want a timeline, but pandemics just don’t work that way. They kind of go at their own pace,” Felton said.
As for what might be ahead as we turn the calendar to May, Felton made this prediction:
“I think at the end of May we will still have a lot of cases. We will still be working on contact tracing. We will still be gradually moving back toward what we used to think of as normal. The new normal will be here. I think we won’t doing a lot of large group things at that point. It’s really important for people to realize that this is a step-wise approach back to a new normal. The more we do a great big step, the more difficult it is going to be to move on,” he says.