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Flathead County issues state of emergency

Daily Inter Lake | March 18, 2020 11:38 AM

The Flathead County commissioners on Wednesday morning unanimously approved a declaration of emergency for Flathead County in order to gain access to emergency funding that will allow the county to prepare for and manage a possible local outbreak of the coronavirus.

The declaration went into effect immediately after the commissioners voted on the matter during a public meeting.

As of Wednesday morning, Flathead County has sent in at least 30 tests to the state and while officials are still waiting on the results for a portion of these tests, all others have come back negative.

With the state of emergency in place, the county can now access money at the local level that is set aside for emergencies, and the county also may be able to tap into other state and federal resources. The approval of the declaration of emergency does not come with any public restrictions or regulations from the commissioners.

Hillary Hansen, public health officer and incident commander for the coronavirus in Flathead County, had requested the commissioners approve the use of the emergency funds. So far, some local costs related to preparedness and testing for the virus have come from the Flathead City-County Health Department’s budget.

The county’s move comes as the number of positive cases elsewhere in the state is slowly increasing. On Tuesday, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services stated 311 people in Montana had been tested for the virus, but on Wednesday that number had increased to 509.

So far, 11 people have tested positive, but one of these individuals did so at an out-of-state hospital. Most recently, two men in their 20s tested positive in Gallatin County, according to a Wednesday press release from the Governor’s Office.

Test results are updated daily on the state health department’s website at https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusmt

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