Thank you Gov. Steve Bullock for your leadership during this very difficult time. Thank you for listening to the experts and for understanding the science. Thank you for being proactive and for taking decisive action. Thank you also for speaking directly to the presdient and keeping him focused on the reality that all Americans but Montanans in particular with our rural healthcare challenges are in dire need for more test kits.
The coronavirus is a new virus. We are learning things every day from the scientists and experts. We were told from the beginning that the elderly and the chronically ill were the ones who would suffer the most severely. Now we know that is not true. In the U.S. today 40% of patients hospitalized for the coronavirus are younger than 55, were not chronically ill and 20% are between the ages of 22-44. It seems we are all old enough to die from this virus.
The challenge we face is how to stop the spread of this nimble virus. We have also recently learned from more than a half dozen studies that asymptomatic (people who are infected but show no symptoms) are causing much of the infections. Also the World Health Organization is now telling us new studies are showing the coronavirus survives on surfaces for several hours or up to several days far longer than previously believed.
Leadership is about making difficult decisions in challenging times. Such decisions are often viewed as unpopular or illogical by the under-informed. Montana depends on tourism. It brings in over $3 billion a year! Closing the Glacier National Park was a difficult decision but it was the right call. We are fortunate to have brave leaders like Bullock in times like this. There are two other local leaders I would like to thank. First Dan Graves, CEO of Whitefish Mountain Resort, for putting people before profits. Back in early March Dan made the difficult decision to close down a month early during a record setting year for visitors while still paying his employees for the rest of the season. One can only imagine the positive impact his decision has had on avoiding additional coronavirus cases here in the valley. Halting the 400,000 tourist visits to the third-ranked ski resort in the west this season coming from places like Seattle, Florida, Chicago and New York undoubtedly saved lives. Finally, I would like to thank Flathead County Health Officer Hillary Hanson. Asking business to shut down is a very difficult decision to make. This virus has had an immediate impact financially on so many people myself included. Hillary listened to employees, business owners and customers. Most importantly she listened to the scientists and experts and healthcare providers. Hillary did the right thing!
We are blessed to have leaders like these three as well as the world class health care providers at Kalispell Regional and North Valley hospitals. We are also blessed for the providers and staff at Flathead Community Health Center doing work for the most at risk and in need. Please air-high-five a health care provider from a safe distance and then go wash your hands!