Delay in Public Health letters explained, active cases remain above 100

Thursday, October 7, 2021
Local active cases remain above 100

For the second consecutive week, new COVID-19 case numbers in Stillwater County have pushed into the 100s, due primarily to the Delta variant surge.

The total case count also this week surpassed a thousand, coming in at 1,007 cases. That represents a 10.1 percent of the county population.

As of Wednesday, Oct. 1, Stillwater County had 104 active cases, 20 deaths and 883 recovered, for a total case count of 1,007.

State and local hospital capacity, coupled with staffing shortages, remain in force. On Wednesday, 15 of the 16 Stillwater Billings Clinic hospital beds were filled.


A sharp increase in daily new cases, coupled with a healthcare staffing shortages, have combined to create a situation in which people who test positive for the virus often do not receive a letter of recommendations from Stillwater Billings/Public Health until quarantine times are nearly done — leading to frustration for the public and Public Health alike.

As explained by Stillwater Billings Clinic Director of Clinic and Ancillary Services Natasha Sailer, the current process is as follows:

•A positive test result is reported to the patient by the doctor or healthcare facility that performed the test.

•That positive test result is then sent to the state.

•The state then sends that information to respective Public Health officials in which the person lives.

•Once Public Health has that name and positive result, the person is sent a letter of guidance.

The lag time between a person being notified they are positive and Public Health even being notified of the positive by the state can be as much as four or more days, said Sailer.


In a generic letter provided to the News by the Stillwater Billings Clinic, the 2-page letter is filled with specifics and begins as follows:

“This is an important message from Stillwater County Public Health and the only letter you will receive from Public Health regarding your recent COVID-19 diagnosis. In following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), please stay home and isolate yourself from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You will need to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days from your onset of symptoms. Please let this notification serve as a release for work as well.”

The next section includes home symptom management tools with suggestions of the types of over-the-counter medications to help with fever, cough, nausea and diarrhea.

In bold lettering is the following”

“If you have the following symptoms, please present to your nearest EMERGENCY ROOM:

•Increased shortness of breath (it will be difficult to get a sentence out)

•Chest pain that does not alleviate with rest

•Loss of consciousness

•Bluing or grey color of the lips, skin, and mouth”

The letter also states that due to the ongoing demands of the pandemic and increased need for care in hospitals, medical workers need assistance with notifying possible contacts. The following guidance is offered under that heading:

“Please notify any of the people you have been in contact with for 15 minutes or longer and within 6 feet of in the immediate 48 hours prior to your symptom onset. They will need to quarantine from your last contact for 10 days. You will see information below regarding vaccine status.”

The letter also gives instructions on isolating in households, quarantine times and what to base those on.

The letter provides a list of healthcare facilities that are conducting testing and specific instructions regarding exposure and quarantine guidelines for vaccinated household members.

Sailer’s name, phone number and email address is at the bottom of the letter, along with the sentence “Please let me know if you have any questions.”


As of Wednesday, the daily new case count for the past 25 days 1,151.

COVID-19 related deaths statewide continue to grow. In the last eight days, 52 people have died, according to the Montana Coronavirus Dashboard. In the last month, 233 Montanans have died.

The “Active Hospitalizations” was at 414 Wednesday, which is consistent with the last eight days.


As of Wednesday, Oct. 6, 53 percent of the entire state was fully vaccinated, which amounts to 491,562 people. Stillwater County is 42 percent vaccinated, which amounts to 3,527 fully vaccinated people.