Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

'They're more than flags': RiverStone Health staff reflect on Yellowstone County's COVID deaths

riverstone flags main.JPG
Nadya Faulx
Yellowstone Public Radio
Staff at RiverStone Health hold a moment of silence in front of a display of flags memorializing residents who have died due to COVID-19.

Drive south on 27th Street past downtown Billings, and you’ll see rows and rows of small blue flags planted in the lawn outside RiverStone Health.

The flags represent the nearly 450 Yellowstone County residents who have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

flags closeup.JPG
Nadya Faulx
Nearly 450 flags are planted outside of RiverStone Health near downtown Billings, representing the Yellowstone County residents who have died of COVID-19.

“They’re more than flags,” said Barbara Schneeman, vice president for communications at RiverStone. “They’re our family members, they’re our community members, they’re our friends.

“And it’s important for us to honor them.”

Employees gathered beside the flags Monday for a moment of silence; Schneeman says it’s the first time staff has held a memorial like this since the pandemic began.

It took about an hour to put the flags in place.

“It was quite a period of time where we actually had the opportunity to reflect as we were putting the flags out,” Schneeman said.

riverstone flags 2.JPG
Nadya Faulx

She says she hopes that putting the display in such a visible part of town will encourage others who see it to also reflect on what it represents.

“I think that people have sort of gotten numb to the number of residents who have lost their lives to the pandemic,” she said. “I think nationwide that’s true as well.”

As of Monday morning, there were 437 flags.

“I know that I’ll be adding a couple more today,” Schneeman said.

Since the memorial, RiverStone reported two additional deaths due to COVID-19, bringing the county’s total to 439.