Back in late May, when Governor Bullock announced that on June 1st, Montana would transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2, it felt to some like the battle against COVID-19 was nearing the end and many of us dropped our guard. The general sense of relief was followed by a summer of increased cases across the state and nation, events of all types being canceled or scaled-down, and more strain on hospitals. Now, months later, with the arrival of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine in Pondera County, there may be familiar feelings of temptation.
We’d like to pause here and say that if you and your family and friends have followed updates or advice from Pondera Medical Center during this pandemic, we want you to know that we appreciate your confidence in us and your support. It’s also imperative that you know we recognize your sacrifices and appreciate your efforts to aid in reducing the spread of COVID-19. We have stated from the beginning that we cannot win this fight without you, and so far, we have managed to successfully keep this virus from reaching our resident population, who are amongst the most vulnerable. We feel very privileged that over 40 individuals call our facility “home,” and it is a combination of diligence & cooperation from our staff and community that we’ve been able to protect our residents. Thank you.
Today is just shy of the halfway point of January. Pondera County has 17 active cases of COVID-19 as of this morning, which is just an increase of 1 from yesterday and a small percentage of the 402 active cases. In Montana, we are currently looking at 597 new confirmed cases and just under 5,000 active cases across the state. While these numbers are lower than they have been in recent months, they are still steadily increasing, and they are ten folds more severe than numbers we saw back in May when we entered “Phase 2.” We do not see a day without an increase in cases or deaths. Even with the vaccine in the hands of healthcare workers across the state, we must urge you to continue with your efforts to reduce the spread and risk of COVID-19.
It will be at least months until the vaccine has reached enough of the population to make a significant impact in resisting infection, so our best chance at reducing the spread of the virus remains prevention. Social distancing, wearing a mask, reducing your gathering size or avoiding gatherings altogether, keeping your high-touch surfaces and your hands sanitized are still the top ways you can help yourself and others. Letting our guards down now, although enticing, could put us back further, after months and months of diligence. We want our kids to stay in school, visitors allowed in our nursing home, and businesses open as much as you do. We miss pizza with our friends, movies, and student cheering sections as badly as all of you; and the sooner we work together, the sooner we will have those opportunities again. At this time, complying with these guidelines put forth by Public Health and Infectious disease experts is the only avenue we have to continue allowing events, dining out, travel, etc. Although limited, they are still much progressed from where we were 8 months ago, and we have come too far to regress now.
Vince Lombardi was a highly successful football coach, winning 5 NFL Championships with the Green Bay Packers. There is a famous quote from Coach Lombardi that hangs in businesses and locker rooms and homes everywhere… “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” That’s something we’d ask you to consider at this point in time. Because efforts from individuals are what is going to make containing this highly-contagious virus work until we feel like we can comfortably move forward backing off restrictions once enough of the population has received the vaccine, which could take longer than we had originally hoped. There are differing, sometimes very hostile, opinions on the virus, and mitigation risks. The discussion is often more of a debate that has become political, heated, and divisive. We come to you today with a message that is not affiliated with any party or group, but one simply from a healthcare standpoint. We are your hometown hospital, and we have no motive in asking you to remain vigilant in doing your part other than to keep yours and our community safe. That has always been, and always will be, our goal. We know that PMC’s best defense starts with you.
Now that we’ve made this important ask, we have another. We ask each of you to take the necessary steps to stay well—physically, emotionally, and mentally—during the coming months. There are many resources available in Pondera County whether you are in great distress or just don’t quite feel like yourself and could use a listening ear. If PMC can do anything to support our friends and neighbors during this time, we are here along with many of our community partners who want to see our community get through this trying time. Recognize that you are worthy of your own consideration. In return, you have our word that we will be here 24/7, stay up to date on the latest updates and information, get the vaccine to our community as soon as humanly possible, and that we will never stop taking the necessary steps to keep Pondera County healthy.
This is truly a remarkable period of time. But you all are remarkable too. We have leaned on your efforts for nearly an entire year and we are asking you to stick to the fight for a while longer. Even if we’re six feet apart, we can still stand united.
Thanks for allowing us to serve the best people in the best place. We’re proud to be Pondera Countians.
Take good care, stay well, and let us know how we can help.