After a conversation that occurred on KGVO’s Talk Back program on Monday, this reporter reached out to Missoula City County Health Department Incident Commander Cindy Farr for answers to questions presented on the program.

The first question dealt with reporting the actual cause of death when an individual goes to a hospital with an underlying condition in addition to presenting with COVID 19.

“When we're reporting hospitalization and death numbers from COVID, we're talking about hospitalizations where if they did not have COVID, they would not be in the hospital,” said Farr. “They're in the hospital to be treated for their COVID complication. And the same goes for deaths that are attributed to COVID. Those are deaths were people if they had not had COVID, they would have not passed away.”

Farr said further that COVID 19 exacerbates any serious illness, especially a respiratory illness.

“People who are already fighting other underlying conditions are at highest risk of contracting COVID and having really bad outcomes from it,” she said. “It's because if their immune system isn't super healthy, or they've already got conditions that affect their lungs like asthma or COPD, or something that causes a weakened immune system, then they are the ones that COVID is going to get in there and really take hold. And that if you didn't have those underlying conditions, they may have survived COVID.”

Another question centered around the question of infusion therapies and if local hospitals are able to offer such services.

“At this time neither of our hospitals are offering it, although I do know that St. Patrick Hospital is trying to figure out a way to offer it,” she said. “What we know about the ‘monoclonal antibody infusion’ is that it helps your body to mount a strong immune response to the virus, but you have to get it really early in the infection, keeping in mind that our hospitals, like almost everybody else that I know in Missoula, are short staffed right now, so while they're trying to respond to the surge in COVID, they're also just trying to keep their hospitals running smoothly.”

Farr also responded to an email with an article that referenced how the number of COVID deaths could be greatly exaggerated.

“I actually did see that article,” she said. “I also went on to the CDC website to look at the guidance that they issued in order for physicians to know how to code COVID related deaths, and it's very clear, and I'd be happy to send it to you, but essentially all it did in March of 2020 was give an a code that put to put onto the death certificate if it is truly related to COVID-19.”

Five deaths due to COVID 19 were reported last Friday.

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