A group of emergency physicians in Montana is pleading with their community to follow Covid-19 restrictions, warning that a surge in cases and dwindling hospital capacity in Ravalli County has the community “on the brink of disaster.”
“This is a real threat, and it is getting worse daily – there is no exaggeration in saying that,” said a letter signed by seven emergency physicians affiliated with Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in Ravalli County. “We are on the brink of disaster.”
The letter comes as Ravalli County – home to an estimated 44,000 people – experiences a spike in infections. Cases have doubled in the last three weeks, according to the letter. By Thursday, the county had 731 Covid-19 cases, according to the state’s coronavirus data dashboard, and 450 of those cases were active. Five people have died since the pandemic began, according to a news release from the county.
The rise in cases is straining local hospitals, the letter says, hampering doctors’ ability to treat not just Covid-19 patients but those suffering from other life-threatening conditions like heart attacks.
In some instances, doctors have been forced to transfer critically ill patients to hospitals out of state, the letter says.
“It is our mission and passion as emergency physicians to provide unsurpassed emergency care to each and every member of our community who requires our services, at the moment it is needed,” the letter said. “However, it is becoming increasingly clear to us that we need your help in order to do this effectively.”
Ravalli County, which sits on the southwestern border near Idaho, just south of Missoula, is not alone.
Covid-19 is running rampant throughout the country, with CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta declaring the crisis a “humanitarian disaster.”
Wednesday marked the ninth straight day the US topped 100,000 daily infections, with a new record of more than 140,000 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 1,900 people died on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to more than 241,000. On Tuesday, coronavirus hospitalizations in the US – 61,694 – reached an all-time high.
Montana recorded 1,101 cases on Tuesday, a record high since the pandemic began, according to the state’s department of health. Statewide, there had been more than 42,000 cases as of Thursday morning.
In their letter, the emergency physicians plead with residents to follow the basic tenets of reducing the spread of the virus, including wearing masks, social distancing and staying home if they had contact with someone who has a confirmed case of Covid-19.
“These small and easy steps will go a long way in helping to curb this crisis and the overcrowding of our medical resources,” the letter said.
The doctors say they “recognize the controversies” surrounding those measures and the “sacrifice” required, but they believe “these self-restricting choices will ultimately give us more freedoms” by allowing businesses and the community to remain open.
“As emergency physicians, but also as members of your community, as your neighbors and friends, we are pleading for your help. We cannot do this without you,” they wrote. “We believe the quickest path to normalcy – and the one with fewest casualties – is to take this threat seriously today. The decisions you make matter – they matter right now, and they will have an impact on our foreseeable future.”
CNN’s Konstantin Toropin contributed to this report.