During his second COVID 19 press conference in one week, Governor Steve Bullock introduced Dr. Bridget Brennan, Chief Medical Officer with Benefis Health Services in Great Falls, who made a dramatic announcement.

“I’ll put this very simply, we are experiencing a public health crisis,” said Dr. Brennan. “The number of positive COVID cases is rising so quickly that it is threatening to overwhelm the health care resources here in the state. Over the last several months, we have watched other parts of the country deal with overwhelming numbers of COVID positive patients until just recently, the state of Montana really hasn't had that many patients compared to other parts of the country leading many to believe that this really wasn't such a big deal.”

Brennan continued in that vein.

“Over the last couple of weeks, you've all heard about our area hospitals reaching or exceeding their capacity,” she said. “At Benefis Health System, we began to see an increase not only in the number of hospitalized patients from Great Falls and our usual region, but we were also seeing an increase in the number of patients transferred to us from other parts of the state where ICU’s (Intensive Care Units) were full.”

Brennan pleaded with those listening and the reporters attending the press conference to do all the things necessary to keep Montanans safe and healthy.

“We can only do so much,” she said. “We have to look to you to the public and the citizens of Montana to help us slow the rate of spread of the COVID 19 virus. We hope to have a vaccine soon, but until then we really need your help with the things that we know work. Wash your hands. Don't go to work if you're sick. Avoid large gatherings where the virus can spread easily. Keep your distance, and when you can't keep your distance wear a face covering or a face mask. We know these things work.”

Brennan said too many people think the virus is merely a political issue, but she vehemently disagreed.

“This is not a political issue,” she said. “This is a personal responsibility issue, and I think if we all approached it from that perspective, that we would have greater success in trying to contain the spread of this virus. I would like to think that most people have the well being of the people around them at heart and that they would do anything to keep those people safe.”

Governor Bullock and Dr. Brennan asked anyone in Montana with nursing or healthcare experience to make themselves available to their local county health departments as soon as possible.

In Missoula County, the health department is tightening regulations on rest homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities starting on Friday, October 16.