CCHD working with county schools, Central Catholic for contact tracing; Justice Court modifying operations; City Public Works, Municipal Court closed to public

Community officials are continuing the grapple with the spread of COVID-19 and contact tracing efforts.

During the Nov. 10 meeting, County Commissioners will consider two agreements from the Cascade County City-County Health Department for assistance with contact tracing, one with the Cascade County School District and the other with Central Catholic High School for the appointment of deputy public health officials.

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The county school district operates one high school, one middle school and one elementary school, with about 290 students, according to the county.

Under the agreements, the district and catholic school sill designate employees to assist CCHD with COVID-19 contact tracing efforts and those employees will receive and maintain information from CCHD pertaining to people within the schools known to be positive for COVID-19; notify CCHD of any information it receives that any student or staff has tested positive; provide CCHD with contact information for those who have tested positive or been exposed; notify contacts of their quarantine orders; among other related tasks.

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Under the agreements, the county will provide training regarding HIPAA and other health privacy laws; training on how to ascertain who is a close contact, how to set the dates for quarantine; among other related training.

City Public Works

On Nov. 9, the City of Great Falls announced that the Public Works complex is closed to the public until further notice due to COVID-19.

Deliveries will still be accepted. Normal operations will continue, including sanitation pickup, street maintenance, water meter reading, etc. Urgent meetings that cannot be conducted via teleconference may be scheduled by appointment at the discretion of the department director, according to a city release.

Walk-ins will not be received for razing permits and dust control permits. These permits may be approved via electronic submission or by appointment only, according to the city.

For more information on razing permits, contact Terri Gumenberg at 771-1258, and for dust control permits, contact Nate Besich at 727-8390. Residents can contact the Public Works service divisions directly by phone for Street, Sanitation, or Traffic by calling 771-1401; Engineering call 771-1258; Water, Sewer and Storm Drain, or Utilities call 727-8045; and Administration or Environmental call 727-8390.

Municipal Court

The Great Falls Municipal Court will be closed effective immediately, Nov. 9, due to COVID-19. All open court sessions will be closed and will reopen Nov. 30. All hearings and trials will be continued by the court to a later date and notices will be mailed. Upon opening, all processes will resume, including warrants being issued for failure to appear, failure to pay, and/or failure to comply, according to a city release.

To request additional time on any matter, a motion must be filed via the City Court e-mail (citycourt@greatfallsmt.net). Failure to do so may result in a warrant being issued upon the court reopening. Any warrants already issued will remain active until an appearance is made.

During the closure, fine/restitution payments can be made online at citypayusa.com (choose Great Falls Municipal Court). Please note, payments that are mailed in will not be processed until court staff returns to the office on Nov. 30.

For further assistance, contact the court at citycourt@greatfallsmt.net or leave a voicemail at 771-1380. Court staff will be checking messages and returning calls during the closure.

Justice Court

On Nov. 9, Justice of the Peace Mary Jolley announced that, “with the rise in positive COVID cases in Cascade County, unfortunately Justice Court has been impacted and it is necessary that the Justice Court operations be modified for the next two weeks.”

Beginning Nov. 9 through Nov. 20, Justice Court will only be conducting initial appearances that are via Zoom.

All other in court appearances currently scheduled are being immediately continued. Justice Court will not be open to appointments or foot traffic during this time period.

Defendants who are court ordered to make payments to Justice Court are encouraged to do so via the U.S. Postal Service, according to Jolley’s release.

“Justice Fagenstrom and I regret this inconvenience and disruption and appreciate the publics’ understanding and patience while we operate for a brief time under these limitations so as to keep our staff and community safe,” Joley said.

GFPS

As of Nov. 6, the total number of active cases within the Great Falls Public Schools district was 85.

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Superintendent Tom Moore said during a City-County Board of Health meeting last week that he was concerned about staffing for schools as the increase in cases is also forcing more teachers and students into quarantine.

CCHD

On Nov. 6, CCHD announced that there had been seven more COVID-19 related deaths in Cascade County since Nov. 3, bringing the county’s total to 42.

These individuals were:

  • 1 female in her 50s
  • 1 female in her 70s
  • 1 male in his 70s
  • 1 female in her 80s
  • 3 males in their 80s

“I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of these individuals,” Trisha Gardner, county health officer, said in a release. “We are using every available resource to slow the spread and prevent more deaths like these.”

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As of Nov. 9, Cascade County’s total confirmed cases totaled 2,793, of which, 1,827 were active.

“COVID cases in Cascade County—and, sadly, deaths—have been increasing very rapidly in recent weeks. This influx of new cases has overwhelmed our local public health system. As of today, several hundred cases have yet to be assigned to case investigators and contact tracers. That backlog grows every day. Case investigation and contact tracing are time-consuming processes and our staff is working as quickly as they can, seven days a week, but at this point delays are unavoidable and significant,” according to a release from CCHD.

No new cases posted to the county on Monday, but CCHD said “we have had more cases than this but due to delays in reporting they have not been immediately reported at state level. Expect to see them reported over the next few days.”

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As of Nov. 6, the average daily case rate was 99 per 100,000, a significant increase since the rate of 14 per 100,000 at the beginning of September. In late October, the City-County Board of Health adopted stricter measures to curb the spread and they went into effect Nov. 1 and remain in effect until the new case rate is 25 per 100,000 for four consecutive weeks.

A team from the U.S. Centers from Disease Control and Prevention arrives in Great Falls this week to assist CCHD, after spending time in Billings, according to CCHD.