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An Important Message from Dr. Greg Moore at Barrett Hospital & Health Care

November 6, 2020

Hello, Beaverhead County residents, students and friends. I'm Dr. Greg Moore, Chief Medical Officer and Emergency Department Medical Director at Barrett Hospital & HealthCare. We are currently facing a true healthcare crisis in the state of Montana, and here in Beaverhead County.

COVID-19 numbers have reached an all-time high. As of November 1st, there were over 9.2 million recorded cases of coronavirus in the United States, and over 233,000 deaths. In Montana, we’ve reached 33,500 cases, and over 375 deaths. Hospitals are also reaching critical capacities and starting to shut down elective services and sometimes essential services because of overcrowding and sick employees.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation on the Internet, as well as social media about coronavirus.  Yes, there’s a lot we don’t know about COVID-19, however, there’s a lot that we do know, and I’d like to share that with you.

COVID-19 is of the coronavirus family. It’s an RNA virus, very similar to influenza, although it acts somewhat differently. It is spread by droplet infection. Droplet infections occur when you’re talking, when you sneeze, when you cough. Small particles of saliva and or respiratory secretions are suspended in air and these contain viruses. If you walk by someone that’s coughing and inhale the particles, you may get coronavirus. The particles usually travel about three to six feet before settling on surfaces. It can survive on surfaces, such as stainless steel and plastic for about three days, if you touch that surface, then touch your mouth or nose, you may get the virus. Symptoms start about three days after exposure.  Some people don’t have symptoms at all, which makes it difficult to diagnose this virus. Some people get very severe symptoms. Younger people in general usually do better. Older people or people with underlying disease seem to do worse.

Does the virus act like influenza? Somewhat, with symptoms of cough and fever and body aches. However, this virus causes an intense inflammatory response in our vessels, which in turn, causes small clots in our vessels that causes increased hypoxemia, or lack of oxygen. This hurts our organs in our body and can lead to eventually having a stroke and or heart disease. Many people recover from the virus. However, our more vulnerable population, people over 65, people with underlying heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, or obesity have a higher morbidity. People over 65 have a 90-times greater risk of dying from coronavirus. People over 85 have a 630-time greater risk of dying from coronavirus.

Can we treat this virus? Unlike influenza, which has a vaccine as well as drugs that can arrest the virus reproduction, coronavirus has a vaccine which has not been proven yet, and the drugs are still undetermined if they’re helpful. There is some promising medication, such as Remdesivir, which seems to slow viral spread. We are also using Decadron to stop the inflammatory response.

What can you do to help us stop the spread of the virus? There’s been a lot of controversy over masking, however, clinical trials are clear now that masking can help prevent spread about 60% to 75%. In addition, frequent handwashing will prevent transmission of this virus by touching surfaces and your hands. Social distancing (of 6 feet) means staying outside that risk of inhaling some of those droplet particles that are suspended in air. Also, avoid large gatherings which makes social distancing and handwashing almost impossible to maintain. In addition, if you are sick, please stay home and contact your primary care provider for advice on diagnosis as well as treatment.

Please help us protect our more vulnerable population which could be your parents or grandparents.  Please help us protect our healthcare workers, so we can continue to provide the services you need for the maintaining of your health care. Please mask, maintain social distancing, and frequent hand washing to help us all lessen the spread of this virus.

Thank you.

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