Lincoln County man is first COVID-19 fatality in Montana

by Duncan Adams
Staff Writer | March 27, 2020 11:48 AM

G. Scott Tomlin said he was not able to speak to his 77-year-old father, Jim Tomlin, in his final days, a reality that made the loss of his father to COVID-19 especially painful.

Jim and Marcia Hunter Tomlin lived on Bull Lake in Lincoln County. Jim was the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Lincoln County.

He was also the state’s first fatality linked to the respiratory disease.

Scott Tomlin’s account of his father’s final days describes Jim Tomlin’s transport from Libby to the hospital in Kalispell, where he was soon placed on a respirator. Scott Tomlin said that by 9 p.m. on March 25 his father was in a medically induced coma and in critical condition. Around noon on March 26 the family learned that Jim Tomlin had about a 5 percent chance of survival. By 4:30 p.m. the end was nigh.

“Last rites were given over the phone,” Scott Tomlin wrote. “His wife got to say goodbye and that [his] children love him, over the phone.”

Scott said both Jim Tomlin and Marcia, his stepmother, were retired high school teachers. Jim, a native of Washington State, taught biology, along with some aerospace and some humanities.

Scott said his father had an uncanny ability to make friends and be friends.

He said keeping a distance from other family during his father’s last days was profoundly difficult.

“I could not go to him. I could not comfort my stepmother. I could not comfort my sisters,” he said.

Lincoln County’s Health Department announced March 25 that the department had received notice of the county’s first positive test for novel coronavirus.

“The individual is in their 70s and had engaged in domestic out-of-state travel,” the department reported in a news release.

Health officials reported a second positive case on March 26, noting that the person had had direct contact with a known positive case. The department declined to release additional information about the individual involved, citing patient confidentiality and referencing the desire to protect the safety of the individual and their family.