Montana Joint Information Center ready to answer COVID-19 questions

Posted at 12:14 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-05 11:19:50-04

Representatives from several state agencies are working together at Montana’s Joint Information Center at Fort Harrison to deliver accurate information and a consistent message about COVID-19 to members of the media or public.

You can send a message to COVID19INFO@MT.GOV, or call the hotline at 1-888-333-0461, and someone involved in this operation will answer your question. You can also click here to visit the website for information.

Director Ryan Finnegan tells MTN News the room is staffed from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. Some staff members are also working remotely at home to handle the number of calls and messages they're receiving.

Finnegan explained, "In my case, I've been fortunate enough to participate in a lot of training exercises and prior disasters, but this is something on a new scope, a lot higher level, and unfortunately affecting a lot more people than anything I've been working on in the past. That's why it's so important to keep doing what we're doing, keep the messaging consistent, and do what we can to keep people safe."

“We’re coordinating information, resources, requests for technical assistance, trying to answer questions at the state level – and we also want to know what the locals are doing, too,” said Jake Ganieany, the center’s manager.

Around the center, monitors show updated information on which counties have opened emergency operations centers, where restaurants and bars have been closed, and which public events have been canceled. The center has five levels of readiness, with Level 5 the least serious and Level 1 the most. They are currently operating at Level 2, but leaders said they are ready to expand their operations as needed.

“Everyone here is problem solving,” said Ganieany. “We are here to solve problems and help the people of Montana.”

One of the center's most recent tasks is creating posters for Montana's airports and train stations to let passengers know about the Montana National Guard screenings that are taking place at airports and train stations.

As of Friday morning (April 3), there have been a total of 243 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Montana, and five deaths.

Among the new cases reported since Thursday is a Glacier County woman. The Glacier County Health Department said on Thursday evening: "The individual is a female in her 40’s. Due to patient privacy rights, no other information will be released at this time."

Governor Steve Bullock said on Tuesday afternoon that 32 patients in Montana have recovered. No new numbers for recoveries have been released since then. There have now been 24 hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Montana. As of Thursday morning, the DPHHS public health lab in Helena has completed 5,576 tests for COVID-19.

The first COVID-19 death in Montana was Lincoln County resident Jim Tomlin, whose death was reported on Friday . On Sunday, the death of a Madison County resident was announced. On Monday, officials in Toole County confirmed two deaths attributed to COVID-19. On Tuesday, Governor Steve Bullock said there has been a fifth death; we learned on Wednesday that he was referring to this latest Toole County death.

Here are the counties in Montana with the most cases as of Friday morning: Gallatin County - 93 Cases; Yellowstone County - 36 Cases; Flathead County - 18 Cases; Missoula County - 17 Cases; Lewis and Clark County - 13 Cases; Silver Bow County - 11 Cases; Cascade County - 11 Cases; Madison County - 6 Cases; Park County - 6 Cases; Toole County - 6 Cases; Lincoln County - 6 Cases; Lake County - 4 Cases; Deer Lodge County - 3 Cases; Broadwater County - 3 Cases

According to Johns Hopkins University , the worldwide numbers as of Friday morning are: 1,033,478 confirmed COVID-19 cases; 54,369 deaths; and 219,019 patients have recovered. The U.S. numbers as of Friday morning are: 245,601 confirmed cases; 6,058 deaths; and 9,311 patients have recovered.