Date: July 22, 2020
Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936, (406) 461-3757,  jebelt@mt.gov
                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391, (406) 461-8367, hcouncil@mt.gov

Montana State Hospital Update: New COVID-19 Cases Reported

Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials announced today that one Montana State Hospital (MSH) patient has tested positive for COVID-19, and a second patient is considered presumptive positive following initial testing at the facility.

One patient is exhibiting minor symptoms, and the other is asymptomatic.

Another MSH staff member, a male in his 20s, tested positive on July 19, 2020. This employee was already off work on quarantine status based on exposure to the first positive MSH staff person.  DPHHS announced the first positive case of a male in his 40s on July 17.

This brings the total of confirmed or probable MSH cases to four.

Confirmatory tests for the second patient will be conducted at the DPHHS State Public Health Laboratory.

Contact tracing efforts are continuing to determine whether all four cases are connected using the CDC guidance regarding any individual within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes of laboratory-confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients. In addition, work is under way to determine if additional patients and staff outside of the daily group home setting are considered close contacts.

The two confirmed or probable patients reside in a group home with four other MSH patients. The group home is not physically attached to the main MSH building where a majority of the 219 patients reside. The four exposed patients are being kept apart from the main campus, and the other two confirmed or presumptive patients are further isolated from the rest of the occupants of that building.

All patients and staff who live or work at the group home will be tested. All MSH patients continue to be monitored for symptoms.

The other four patients and the staff who live or work in the group home are not currently reporting symptoms.

The Montana State Hospital is the only public psychiatric hospital in the state.

Additional preventive safety measures were initially put in place in March and have been revised as needed in accordance with modifications to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for healthcare facilities in response to COVID-19 in preparation for positive cases at MSH.

MSH has implemented numerous safety precautions to address COVID-19:

  • Some physical changes at the hospital to prevent COVID-19 include suspension of physical patient visitation, installation of hygiene supply stands at multiple locations, medical evaluation stations at key entryways, and limiting interactions between patients.
  • All staff reporting for duty are screened by medical personnel for symptoms of an infectious condition as per the CDC guidelines for healthcare facilities.
  • Patients are screened upon admission and twice daily for symptoms of an infectious condition, including COVID-19. The screening process at admission includes an antigen test for COVID-19. Patients do not have contact with other patients until a negative test is confirmed.
  • Patients are encouraged to practice social distancing throughout the day, including during at mealtime, daily activities, etc.
  • Staff are currently required to utilize facemasks suitable for healthcare professionals while on-duty in all hospital areas. Use of face masks has been standard practice in all direct care areas of the hospital since May 1, 2020.
  • Staff have been using PPE in accordance with CDC guidelines for healthcare facilities related to COVID-19 and as per the hospital infectious control policies.
  • Staff have been directed follow all the public health prevention measures such as staying home if sick, washing their hands and cleaning surfaces more frequently.
  • State and Federal licensing rules require MSH to have infectious disease control plans in place to contain other diseases as well.
  • The MSH infectious disease control plans do to address the scenario should a patient test positive. The first step would be to isolate within the facility or treat at a primary care facility such as a local hospital depending on the severity of the symptoms. There are areas of the MSH designated to safely isolate patients who exhibit symptoms should the need arise. This is the same procedure used for patients who show symptoms for other viruses such as influenza.