Targeted surveillance and robust testing are key for reopening our communities

Author Jack Deshazer. Photo courtesy of The Land of Beyond all Roads.


By Mati Bishop


The Lincoln County Board of Health voted to enact an order from the Lincoln County Health Officer, Dr. Brad Black, that allows for the re-opening of businesses in Lincoln County using  guidelines and orders issued by Montana’s Governor, Steve Bullock, on April 22. In addition to approving the governor’s order, the County issued an earlier directive creating a robust testing program for new cases that will use targeted surveillance of workers who are more likely to encounter Coronavirus cases entering the area. These targeted workers include hotel and supermarket employees among others.

“We’re ready (for re-opening) because we will be on top of new cases of the virus by using robust testing each month,” said Black at the April 23 Board of Health meeting.   “If we see an outbreak, we will be able to contain it because we are ahead of it.”

In order to stay ahead of another potential outbreak, Black is planning on 1,000 to 1,300 tests each month for what could be the next 12 months. One of the initial challenges with robust testing was obtaining the required number of tests and necessary materials to do the testing. As of last week, the Health Department said, they have started to receive adequate testing supplies  and more have been requested from the United States government.

With 1,000 people coming through the testing process each month, Black is confident that it will be a large enough sample to see if the virus is moving through our community.

“We need the community to keep coming in for testing,” he said. “We’re all responsible for keeping our community open and moving forward. It requires cooperation.”

Companies with employees who come into contact with people from out of state, such as hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores, will be receiving special attention to ask their workers to participate in testing. This will help monitor new cases of the virus coming into our communities. Recommendations will be made by Public Health to help ensure that they are keeping employees and the community safe.

Federal funding for free COVID-19 testing is set to run for 90 days, but Black does not see a circumstance where employers or persons being tested will have to pay for tests. He anticipates that funding for testing will be extended at the federal level into 2022, similar to the same testing funding that has been approved for tribal communities.

The first order of business in the reopening order was allowing places of worship to resume in person services starting on Sunday, April 26. They must follow social distancing guidelines and ensure that worshippers from different households do not congregate within six feet of each other.

Retail businesses have the option of reopening as early as April 26 as well, providing they follow the guidelines issued by the governor’s reopening plan. Those include facilitating appropriate social distancing as well as health assessments for every employee prior to each of their shifts.


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Local author’s new book,

“The Land Beyond All Roads”

By Brian Baxter


Less than a mile above his house on the Kootenai River where he rides, bachelor Jack Deshazer has a pristine view of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. Peaks with names like Indian Head, Treasure, Mount Snowy, Big Loaf, and Snowshoe are in the distance, but only so far as memories go. Deshazer has recently published a collection of his memoirs and adventures in a new book appropriately titled, “The Land Beyond All Roads.”

The stories in his book are woven together with the common threads of his love for wilderness, family, friends, his horses, mules, and his dogs. They are set in a vast array of locations that include the east and west Cabinet Mountains, the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, the Salish Mountains, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Frank Church Wilderness, the North Fork of the Sun River, the Salmon River country, the Selway – Bitterroot Wilderness, and many others that are pictured, but not written about in this book.

Deshazer is a name of French descent, its meaning, legend has it, is from a regional term in France chaze, meaning house. He knows that his dad was born in 1918 at his grandfather’s and family homestead west across the Kootenai River from Stone Hill near the old town of Rexford. He also knows that he is part Cherokee, a tribe of native Americans, but it is a bit unclear exactly how those genetics fit in to the family tree. Jack and Debbie, his first wife married young and raised a family, then built Deshazer – Ryan Realty together. The two went their separate ways years ago, but have many grandchildren, and Deshazer’s can be found throughout the area. Jack still owns and operates the realty business at 400 West Highway 2 in Libby, and the office phone there is 293-7706. His website is


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Hwy. 2 road work restarts; expect travel delays

By McKenzie Williams


Roadwork has once again begun on Hwy. 2 between Libby and Kalispell near Swamp Creek East, and travelers can expect delays.

According to a press release from the Department of Transportation (DOT), starting  on April 23, traffic will be restricted to a single lane 24 hours per day through the work zone from Monday through Friday.

Here’s what to expect:

At night, traffic will be reduced to a single lane and controlled with traffic signals. During the day, traffic will be reduced to a single lane and controlled with traffic signals and a pilot car. Expect up to 15-minute delays. Traffic will return to two lanes on weekends. The speed limit is reduced to 35 mph. Motorists will drive on a gravel surface, and vehicles over 12-feet wide are restricted through the work zone.

Although there may be some delays, major improvements will be made which include:

Widening the travel lanes to 12 feet. Adding 4-foot shoulders on both sides of the roadway. Replacing a bridge over Swamp Creek with a wider single-span concrete bridge. Repaving the road surface of Hwy 2. Using Geofoam blocks as part of the road base to limit the settling of the road.

The DOT wrote in a press release, “Together with its construction contracting partners are taking the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously. Construction projects on Montana’s roads and bridges are considered an “essential” operation and will move forward as scheduled in 2020. While construction workers traveling to a worksite are exempt from the 14-day self-isolation travel rules, several measures have been implemented to help keep employees, contractors and the public safe during the construction season. Some of the measures include following social distancing and good hygiene guidelines, and not reporting to work if showing symptoms of illness.”

Construction is anticipated to be completed this fall.

US Highway 2 project area is labeled in green. Photo courtesy of The Montana Department of Transportation

A letter from Libby Public Schools

Submitted by

Craig Barringer


Libby Schools

It goes without being said that decisions and plans moving forward are challenging. Emotions about where we are at and what we need to do to move forward compels us to realize how important any decision being made impacts us personally, us as professionals, and us as members of our community.

After meeting with the Lincoln County Health Department (LCHD) and other schools in Lincoln County we have come to the conclusion we will continue the remote learning the reminder of the school year. I will recommend to the Board to approve the following:

Beginning May 11 our schools will continue our Extended Learning; the middle/high school will provide additional academic support through scheduled learning appointments. In accordance with LCHD and social distancing guidelines, we will only allow no more than four students in a classroom at a time, and students will only be allowed to come to the building if a prescheduled appointment has been made.

Over the course of the next two weeks we will determine time periods and days that appointments can be made.

Students will be encouraged to continue to work remotely.  In addition, both schools will continue to provide academic support through continued communication, and digital platforms.  Accommodations for students who do not have access to a device or internet will continue to be made.

We will continue to offer Grab-n-Go meals on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. There will be on-site Grab-n-Go meals at each school.

In reality this is a hard one to swallow for our staff. They want to finish the year with students in our schools, but there is no way we can ensure the safety needed for all.

Farmers Market at Libby to open on Thursday, May 7

Submitted by Liz Whalen


The Farmers Market at Libby, sponsored by the Libby Chamber of Commerce, will open on Thurs., May 7 at 3 p.m. in the parking lot adjacent to the Libby Chamber building. The market will be open to the public every Thursday through October 8, from 3 until 7 p.m., rain or shine.

This year, the market will offer Supplemental  Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Double-SNAP/EBT, and senior nutrition vouchers.

Under the COVID-19 pandemic guidelines, farmers markets are considered an essential business. We are staying up to date on current health announcements and we will operate the market safely by encouraging customers to socially distance, setting up public hand washing stations, and providing community support to businesses.

“Sanitized” market tokens are available to purchase at the Market Master tent to use in exchange for cash sales with the vendors. Please note there will be no “samples” given out, and no public restrooms will be available at the market until restrictions are lifted.

We have added a “prepaid order only drive-thru” lane at the Market Master tent to allow only those vehicles through the lane to pick up items from those vendors selling in advance/online, thus allowing higher-risk customers to stay in their vehicles.

The Libby Chamber of Commerce and the Farmers Market Committee are adopting and sponsoring the 6th Annual “Kootenai Harvest Festival” on Saturday Sept.12, from noon until 6 p.m. at Riverfront Park. This Festival will become the Farmers Market’s “Annual Signature Event.”

If you would like to become a business or individual monetary sponsor of the Farmers Market or Harvest Festival, your business logo and/or individual name will be displayed on a banner at the entry point of every weekly market and at the Harvest Festival this year.  Please call or email to become a sponsor or help by volunteering at the market or the Harvest Festival. Email or call 293-4167​.

Libby Area Chamber of Commerce members pose at The Farmers Market at Libby booth during last year’s market season. Photo by McKenzie Williams, The Montanian.