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Coronavirus bears down on a small Montana town – Los Angeles Times

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-10-24/whitefish-montana-coronavirus-outbreak

” Theres been a failure of management from the very greatest levels,” he stated. “The duty keeps getting pushed downhill, and its wound up in our laps.”.

Bukacek and a small group of allies demonstration outside schools and federal government structures a few times every week to require an end to mask requirements and other state constraints they correspond to martial law.
Their message struck some as possible last summertime as cases and deaths stayed low, even as more travelers than expected gone to Whitefish and the nationwide park.
Ultimately though it became clear that Flathead County, population 100,000, would not avoid the kind of suffering that a lot of other parts of the country had experienced.
The very first significant break out in Whitefish struck a nursing home in August, infecting 43 of the 52 clients– and ultimately killing 13 of them.

Whitefish Mountain Resort looms above Whitefish, Mont., gateway to Glacier National Park.
( Richard Read/ Los Angeles Times).

A minute later, he interrupted her again to say that he was so fed up with her discussion that he was logging off.
” Im not saying that individuals who passed away didnt matter,” she said after he was gone.
At the end of the night, the board members were left with a single proposition: no gatherings of more than 500 individuals.
They rejected it with a 5-to-3 vote.

” Where does that leave me, simply me out there?” Robinson asked.
When it comes to the county health board, Bukacek prevailed in the most recent fight over whether to restrict social gatherings.
” Statistically, for practical purposes, COVID in Montana has 100% survival,” she stated last week throughout an online public conference of the board.
” No, it does not!” shouted Dr. Jeffrey Tjaden, a local contagious disease specialist who addressed alert that without instant action things were most likely to get much even worse.

In Whitefish, temperature levels plunged Friday as the seasons very first significant snowstorm hit.
” Its time for action, and it has unfortunately fallen to us,” Qunell told his coworkers at this weeks City Council meeting.
The city manager recommended composing a letter to the health board motivating it to act. A councilman said another letter to companies may encourage them to work together.
Qunell didnt see the point.

That left the Whitefish City Council.
” We are the last line of defense,” Qunell, a 49-year-old high school social research studies instructor, informed his fellow council members throughout an online public conference this week. “Are we going to lead? Or are we just going to follow the nonbelievers in the county?”
Once might manage to see the pandemic as a far-off big-city issue, places like Whitefish. Through mid-September, sparsely inhabited Montana had a death toll of 140.
But that figure has actually folded the last 5 weeks as a new age of infections sweeps the nation. More than 85,000 cases were reported nationwide Friday, the most in a single day since the pandemic began.

She used a lab coat and stethoscope for her discussion, which has actually been viewed more than 860,000 times on YouTube.
The parish is led by Chuck Baldwin, who is explained by the Montana Human Rights Network as “the informal reverend of the militia motion.” He has actually defied state orders by continuing to hold in-person services.

Dr. Annie Bukacek opposes restrictions to slow spread of the coronavirus, saying numbers of deaths have been exaggerated.

” The countys not going to do anything no matter what letters we write,” he stated.
He desired the council to vote to close bars by 10 p.m.– prior to they usually get crowded and rowdy– and restrict restaurants to 25% of capacity.
The only thing the council decided was to satisfy once again Monday to think about enforcing limitations throughout Halloween weekend, when Whitefish generally puts on a popular downtown bar crawl.
In an interview, Qunell stated Whitefish should find a balance in between safeguarding residents and the economy that has avoided nationwide, state and county leaders.

” I realize that theres a historical stress in between public health and specific liberties,” she stated. “But an excellent part of our neighborhood is flouting the state mask mandate, and I still cant get my head around how this has actually ended up being so politicized and dissentious.”.
The variety of clients on the coronavirus ward has hovered around 29 in current days, however supervisors are recruiting more nurses in case things become worse.
Current break outs in Flathead County– where the total number of individuals understood to have been infected doubled to more than 2,800 over the last three weeks– have actually been traced to big gatherings at four churches, four wedding events, 3 political events and 2 trade convention.
Today the county health department recommended locals to remain at house as much as possible and limit contacts outside their families to no more than 6 individuals a week, each for 15 minutes or less. The recommendations have been commonly overlooked.

That prompted criticism from the guv, who said he was disappointed that the board neglected professionals and that “some are attempting to politicize this virus” over safeguarding health and wellness.
” The message existed loud and clear that if the virus spread is not controlled in the Flathead area, schools will need to close, moms and dads will run out the workforce, businesses will be hurt and the medical facility will lack bed capacity,” Bullock told reporters.
This week, he revealed that state investigators had conducted check on more than a dozen companies in Flathead County and that authorities will ask a judge to momentarily close down 5 establishments deemed “egregious violators” for flouting mask requirements and social distancing requirements.
The most significant looming risk might be winter, due to the fact that the virus spreads out most easily when individuals are indoors.

The worst break outs remain in the rural Midwest and Rocky Mountains. With 4,693 new cases over the recently, Montana had the nations third-highest infection rate, routing only the Dakotas.
The rise in Montana has actually overwhelmed efforts to carry out contact tracing and stretched health systems across the state.
And as occasions in Whitefish show, efforts to stem exponential increases are pushing up against a culture that prides itself on rugged independence and flexibility from government rules.
Early in the pandemic, Whitefish, an entrance to ski areas and Glacier National Park, moved more decisively than lots of other communities to contain the virus.

Tamalee St. James Robinson, the interim county health officer, said in an interview that she has the authority to make such measures obligatory however that more rules would be ineffective because officials were declining to enforce those currently in location.
The county district attorney, Travis Ahner, stated he was focused on criminal offense and didnt see a point in breaking down on companies for mask infractions.

Tamalee St. James Robinson, Flathead County interim public health officer, declined to enforce coronavirus constraints.
( Richard Read/ Los Angeles Times).

When Steve Qunell won a seat on the City Council in 2015 in this town of 8,000, he figured he d be dealing with pits and affordable housing.
Rather, he discovers himself at the center of a raging dispute over how to combat the coronavirus, which is surging in Montana like never ever previously.
The states guv, Steve Bullock, a Democrat who is in the last stretch of a tight U.S. Senate race and has been reluctant to enforce limitations that might injure his campaign, gotten in touch with the hardest-hit counties to think about shutting bars and implementing a statewide mask required.
There was little appetite for that in conservative Flathead County, where the health board has been controlled by an outspoken physician who argues that the pandemic is a scam.

Last spring, the City Council purchased hotels and short-term rental properties to take in just vital employees– a requirement that remained in location till completion of May.
Whitefish was likewise among the very first cities in Montana to make individuals wear masks– though the guv quickly provided a mandate statewide.
Still, from the start, there was strong regional opposition to such constraints.

Dr. Annie Bukacek, center, in black, signs up with demonstrators in Kalispell, Mont., objecting mask requirements in schools.

For their part, the county commissioners launched a statement this month supporting “the Constitutional rights of Montanans to make choices about personal defenses for themselves.”.

The countys biggest healthcare facility, the Kalispell Regional Medical Center, soon began seeing more admissions to its coronavirus ward.
Erica Lengacher, a 46-year-old critical-care nurse who works nights in the ward, could deal with the stress of seeing clients dying. That became part of the job.
Harder to deal with was the indifference that challengers of basic precaution seemed to have for victims of the pandemic.
” I simply felt deep, deep unhappiness that while I saw patients suffer and die, there was a sense that our neighborhood had moved on and didnt actually care,” she said.

Leading the resistance was Dr. Annie Bukacek, a 62-year-old internist known for her far-right views and opposition to vaccination.
Flathead County commissioners selected her to the county health board last December after dismissing 2 other physicians with more public health experience– changes the commissioners said were implied to increase the diversity of views.
Bukacek became a hero of anti-lockdown activists throughout the country last spring after she talked to a local church churchgoers declaring that the federal government was overemphasizing the coronavirus death toll.
” People are being intimidated by fearmongers into relinquishing valued liberties,” she told members of the Liberty Fellowship.