Labor Day Safety in the Era of COVID-19

Anna Loge, MD and Kelly Smith, MD
Wednesday, August 26, 2020




To the members of our community,

We would like to personally thank each of you for doing your part to bring down the number of coronavirus cases in our county over the last month. Going from a peak of 32 active cases a month ago down to one active case at the time we write this letter, is a remarkable community achievement and reflects the efforts that every one of us in southwest Montana has made to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to keep our community safe. Keeping our social gatherings small and outside, washing hands often, and, yes, wearing masks in public spaces or when physical distancing is not possible have all made a difference. We’re so proud of what we have been able to achieve as we learn how to live more safely and a little differently with coronavirus in our community.

As we go into the school year it becomes even more important that we double down on our efforts to keep coronavirus numbers low in our county. Keeping our coronavirus numbers low will allow our schools to start off strong and with less disruption to an already uncertain school year. It will also protect our teachers, our children, our teams, our local businesses, and our neighbors. While most people do recover from COVID-19 there is so much we are still learning about this virus and its long term effects. We do know that older individuals or those with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, kidney disease, and diabetes have a higher risk of having a bad outcome.

The next few weeks will be a critical time for our community as college students have returned to campus, Labor Day activities will occur in their scaled-down form, and our children will return to the classroom. As residents of Beaverhead County we can make personal choices that help keep our community safe and coronavirus numbers low or we can make choices that will contribute to a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases in our county in September that could close down our schools and businesses and stretch our medical resources.

So what can each of us do as we start planning for Labor Day weekend in the era of COVID-19?

• If you or anyone in your household have any health condition that places you at risk for a bad outcome from COVID-19, do not go to social gatherings or traditional Labor Day festivities such as the rodeo, fair, or barbeques. COVID-19 spreads before someone has symptoms so you can become infected by someone who doesn’t even know they have it and you can spread it to others before you know you have it. If you are unsure if you are at risk go to www. and type “increased risk for COVID” into the search box.

• If you do not have a health condition and choose to go to the rodeo or other large gatherings, wear a face covering for the duration of the event – a cloth mask, a good neck scarf or a handkerchief covering your nose and mouth will protect the person sitting next to you and there is preliminary evidence that it may protect you too.

• If you choose to gather with friends or family, do so in small groups and try to gather outside.

• And please do not gather to celebrate in crowded bars or house parties. We know that alcohol does not cause coronavirus to spread, but alcohol does make us let down our guard and not physically distance. We ask that you please keep our whole community

We ask that you please keep our whole community in mind as you make plans for Labor Day weekend, but especially our school children and teachers. If we all choose to celebrate safely we will see our coronavirus numbers remain low and manageable. However if we choose to celebrate Labor Day as we usually do we can expect to see our COVID-19 number rise dramatically like what has happened in Phillips County (Malta) where they went from zero to 108 new cases in the three weeks after their county fair and rodeo festivities, with most cases linked to that event. Having that occur to us here in the weeks after Labor Day would be disruptive as best, devastating at worst.

As graduates of Beaverhead County High School, mothers of school-aged children, and doctors who care for you and your loved ones, we hope you will join us in each doing our part to keep our coronavirus numbers low in Beaverhead County and help keep our community safe and healthy this Labor Day weekend.

Anna Loge, MD and Kelly Smith, MD practice medicine at Barrett Hospital and HealthCare.