Early shutdown save Montana lives

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

To the editor,

I want to thank Gov. Bullock for being insightful enough to call for an early shutdown of nonessential work. At first, I did not understand how important this was. But it has become clear that shutdowns have saved many lives throughout the country, including Montana.

One piece of data that is not mentioned much is the death rate, or the Case Fatality Rate (CFR). This differs quite dramatically in different countries. In Germany the CFR has been 0.2 percent, while in Italy the CFR is 7.7 percent.

Across the USA, the CFR has increased weekly, and is currently 5.3 percent. Montana’s CFR is quite low, 2.3 percent, a tribute to the amazing healthcare professionals in our state. The global CFR hovers around 6.5 percent. If you look at data from states around us that established stay-at-home guidance later than we did, you will see relatively large numbers of cases: Idaho 1,672, CFR 2.7 percent; Utah 3,069 cases, CFR 1 percent; Nevada 3830 cases, CFR 4.1 percent.

In low population states in our region that either delayed or still have no stay-at-home guidelines the case counts are rising: South Dakota has over 600 individuals that contracted COVID-19 at one meat-packing plant. South Dakota’s case numbers just shot up to 1,635 cases. North Dakota 585 cases, CFR 1.7 percent; Nebraska 1,474 cases, CFR 1.9 percent; Wyoming has about 440 cases, many listed as “probable cases,” due to testing delays. Even individuals with mild symptoms can be very sick for a very long time. And the affect this disease has on the lungs is truly horrifying.

I have heard some Montanans express concern about the number of individuals who may visit Montana in the next few months, likely bringing more infections with them. But we have to remember how important travel is to the economy of Montana. It is simply not possible to close our borders to tourism or to the migrant farm workers, both of which help keep our economy alive and vibrant. And what would happen if we decided to keep truckers from entering the state, the truckers that bring us our food, supplies, mail, and medicines?

We don’t yet know what the next few months will bring. We have to keep praying that God will keep our world safe. This is the most challenging episode in many decades. But staying at home is what we have to do for now, to protect many more lives from being lost. I wish to extend my thanks to the many individuals in Beaverhead County that keep us all going, especially in this difficult time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Dr. Delena Norris-Tull