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Tool gauges COVID capacity for local testing, monitoring

by KIANNA GARDNER
Daily Inter Lake | August 27, 2020 1:00 AM

In an effort to provide further insight into the valley’s COVID-19 cases, the Flathead City-County Health Department recently released an online community indicator dashboard that displays whether certain aspects of the local testing, monitoring and health-care system are at, or nearing, capacity.

The new feature, which can be found on the health department’s website, is straightforward and provides a status update for various “capacity categories” on a weekly basis. These include updates on capacities for case investigations, community concern, the local health-care system and testing. Each category has its own indicators as well, which are given a green, yellow or red status at each week’s end, with red meaning “critical capacity.”

For example, under the “case investigation” category there are three indicators for determining capacity: new cases per investigator per day, average close contacts per case and adequate capacity to conduct contact monitoring.

From Aug. 10 through Aug. 16, the dashboard shows the health department’s capacity to conduct adequate contact monitoring was in the red, while the other two indicators for that category are yellow. These are all measured in different ways as well. For example, when looking at new cases per investigator per day, green means an investigator is handling less than three, yellow is four-to-five cases and red is six or more.

For that week in August, the tool also shows average testing turnaround times and the level of community concern — which is measured by how many calls were placed to the health department’s COVID-19 call line — were also in the red. However, all capacity aspects of the local health-care system were green, including the average number of cases hospitalized and how much personal protective equipment (PPE) was available.

Information on health-care system capacity is reported by Kalispell Regional Healthcare.

“When looking at all of the colors together, it should help provide a clear picture for where we stand as a community,” said Lisa Dennison, Flathead County’s communicable disease coordinator. Dennison introduced the dashboard during a Board of Health meeting last week.

The current dashboard goes back to the week of June 22, when all categories except testing turnaround times were green.

It was around mid-July when case investigations, testing, and community concern earned a yellow status. Certain indicators, namely turnaround times for testing, slipped into red status in early August.

The dashboard can be found on the Flathead City-County Health Department’s website at https://flatheadhealth.org/covid-19-community-indicators/

Reporter Kianna Gardner can be reached at 758-4407 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com