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Four-member staff of Montana county health agency resigns

November 4, 2020 GMT

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The four-member staff of a Montana county’s health department has resigned, citing a lack of support by the county in fighting the coronavirus.

A letter from Health Department Director Nicki Sullivan to the Pondera County Commission highlighted the need for a fairer wage, more transparency and additional contact tracers and staffers.

“I want to stress how heartbreaking it is for me to leave this position if changes are not addressed,” Sullivan wrote. “Without these changes, another person hired to be in this position will not be successful. I hope my considerations and suggestions are taken seriously to better serve the community of Pondera County and the remarkable citizens within.”

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As of Wednesday, Pondera County had 28 active cases of the coronavirus, 198 total confirmed cases and one death, according to the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services.

Others at the department who quit their jobs were Shauna Wood, Tammy Totdahl and Michaela Orcutt, the Great Falls Tribune reported Wednesday.

The commission issued a statement Wednesday expressing continued support of healthcare professionals and shared goals toward reducing the spread of COVID-19 while keeping schools and businesses open. It said a meeting with the workers was set for Thursday.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.