Rural Public Health Staff Strained by Covid Surge, Public Backlash

Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Two Minnesota state senators switch from Democratic caucus to independents, citing polarization … Plans for historic dam removal moving ahead … Matthew McConaughey for Texas governor?

The Covid-19 pandemic is placing heavy burdens on staff working in health departments and hospitals in rural parts of the country, as more and more people catch the illness and as backlash mounts against government restrictions to stop its spread. Trish Fievet, an administrative assistant who puts in over 55 hours a week at Montana’s Park County Health Department described a daily onslaught of calls, many from people mad about things like the unavailability of tests, delayed test results, or public health restrictions. “It’s just angry people every day. I think it’s just anxiety and they are scared,” she said. “I get it, I really do get it.” But she adds: “It’s mentally exhausting.” Earlier this month, the four-member staff of the county health department in Pondera County resigned, pointing to what they characterized as a lack of support from the county in combating the coronavirus. An outgoing nurse said the department has received almost non-stop harassment since then. “I don’t think any public health nurse or director thought when this happened that we would have the pushback that we’ve had,” said Sue Ann Good, the public health nurse for McCone County, Montana.

Minidoka Memorial Hospital, in Rupert, Idaho, with 17 beds, has been grappling with an influx of Covid patients in recent weeks. On a recent morning, seven staff tested positive for the disease, leaving 19 staff out sick one day. “We’ve had a lot of higher acuity patients, and they’ve been just really, really sick,” said nurse Kaylee Tracy. “And so it’s trying to keep the families informed, trying to keep the doctors informed, the patients well, and along with the staff ... We’ve been working overtime, working really hard. It does get stressful on the staff as well.” Tom Murphy, CEO of the hospital, like health officials in other communities and states, warned that Minidoka Memorial and other facilities could eventually run up against their limits handling Covid cases. “I see us reaching a point where there is not enough capacity because we have this huge backlash against mandates … of doing some of these things that could help,” he said. “We have an unwillingness of any officials anywhere, whether state or regional to really adopt mask mandates. And we’re such a mobile community...so it has to be a regional or statewide effort.” [Billings Gazette, Idaho Statesman]

CAUCUS SPLIT | Two state senators from Minnesota’s Iron Range region said Wednesday they would break ranks with the state’s Democratic party and form an independent caucus in the closely divided state Senate chamber. Sens. Tom Bakk and David Tomassoni noted increasing political polarization as a main factor behind their move. "People are going to wonder why I'm doing this — and to be honest, there are several reasons. I'm very disappointed by the extreme partisanship going on nationally and right here in Minnesota," Bakk said. "Both political parties are to blame. The constant negative and sharp rhetoric is undermining voters' confidence in our public institutions. It doesn't have to stay this way." Republicans held a 34-33 majority in the state Senate. The change means Democrats will slip to 31 seats. [Star Tribune, MPR News]

DAM REMOVAL | Plans are moving ahead for what would be the largest dam removal project in the nation’s history on the lower Klamath River, in Northern California and Southern Oregon. The project would involve demolishing four aging dams that are not generating large profits. If completed, it would open up hundreds of miles of river, providing habitat for struggling salmon populations. Federal regulators will still need to grant approval. [Associated Press, OPB]

SLUDGE | A water and sewer authority in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for seven years dumped chemical-infused “sludge” into the Allegheny River, in violation of the Clean Water Act, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said Wednesday. The authority has pleaded guilty to eight federal charges related to the dumping allegations. The sludge would sometimes build up in the river, according to Brady. “Birds were observed walking on these islands of sludge,” he said. [TribLIVE.com]

BORROWING | New Jersey is in the final stages of getting ready to borrow upwards of $4 billion to help shore up the state budget as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. Investors showed a high level of interest in the tax-exempt bond sale and interest costs were expected to be just under 2%, according to state Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio. [NJ Spotlight News]

MCCONAUGHEY FOR GOVERNOR? | Actor Matthew McConaughey left open the possibility he might be interested in running for governor of Texas. “I don’t know,” McConaughey told talk radio host Hugh Hewitt. “I mean, that wouldn’t be up to me. It would be up to the people more than it would me.” Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is up for re-election in 2022. McConaughey didn’t say if he is a Democrat or Republican. He also didn’t seem to be overly eager for the job. “You know, I still question how much you can really get done in politics, and I don’t know if politics is my avenue to get what maybe I am best equipped to get done,” he said. [Houston Chronicle, The Hugh Hewitt Show]

Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

NEXT STORY: Ahead of Thanksgiving, Cities See Surge in Demand for Covid Tests

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.