By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

Glasgow Adds COVID Case As Montana Numbers Climb


The Valley County Health Department reported an additional case of COVID-19 infection in the county on July 1. According to a joint press release from Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital and the health department, the fourth Valley County related case is an asymptomatic “male in his 30s who is not hospitalized and is isolating at home.”

The department also said the case was identified through contact tracing and the man had been quarantining prior to receiving the test result. The health department is following up with people who had close contact with the infected individual and are at risk of infection. Those identified will be notified and tested.

According to Director of the Valley County Health Department Lynn Miller, when a person is confirmed to have COVID-19, that person will provide the Health Department names of others the person may have been in close contact with, which includes spending 15 minutes or more at a distance of less than six feet. If the person does not name you as a close contact, you will not be contacted by the Health Department.

“If you think you may have been exposed [to the virus], aren’t showing any symptoms and haven’t been contacted by the Health Department as part of the contact tracing process, limit your contact with others, including those you live with. Put yourself in a self-imposed quarantine,” explained Miller. “If you are contacted by the Health Department, then we will follow outlined procedures.”

Miller also welcomes those who think they may have been exposed but aren’t showing any symptoms to get tested during the Community Snapshot Testing event on Wednesday, July 15 from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Northeast Montana Fairgrounds.

To ensure the continued safety of the community, the Valley County Health Department is asking those who are planning events, both indoors and outdoors, that will consist of 50 or more people, including attendees, staff to set up and take down the venue, volunteers, etc., to contact the Health Department and work with them to develop a safety plan.

“Even if the event is a yearly event and you have been hosting the event for many years, we still want to make sure the guidelines to minimize the spread of COVID-19 are being followed,” explained Miller. “We want to help host these events and we want people to be healthy and safe.”

There have been no other reported cases in Valley County since July 1, as of July 7.

As cases have slowly crept into Valley County in the last few weeks, Montana has seen a steady climb in cases as testing has increased, businesses have reopened and events have gone forward. As of July 6, the state has added 332 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the previous seven-day period. That number is equal to the total number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in Montana from March 11—when the first case was confirmed—to April 8 when the state began experiencing its first significant decline of daily cases.

There were 19 confirmed cases on April 8 with a steady decline in positives until April 13 (five cases). The only day between April 10 and May 29 to report more than 10 cases a day was April 15. In that same time frame, 15 days, the state reported zero lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Montana.

There have been 1,249 total lab-confirmed cases in the state and 23 deaths, of which 548 of those cases are active.

The state began a phased reopening of businesses and events on April 26, following weeks of declining cases and days of zero cases. The first phase allowed many smaller businesses to reopen but limited large groups and other gatherings. On May 4, the state reopened restaurants, bars, breweries, and distilleries for dine-in service. Phase two began on June 1, and allowed almost all businesses to open but limited groups to 50. It also asked vulnerable individuals to maintain safety standards or stay home and kept nursing homes and senior-care facilities closed to the public.

According to the website, the state remains in phase two of the reopening process which still imposes restrictions on large groups and gatherings, but also asks for voluntary compliance with mitigation practices to help slow the spread. When the reopening of Montana began, state guidance stated, “Montana’s plan to reopen relies on Montanans to adhere to social distancing guidelines whenever possible and to continue to limit gatherings.”

In a press conference on July 2, the Governor also stressed the importance of wearing masks to stem the tide of COVID cases rising in Big Sky Country. “Montana still maintains the lowest number of positives, hospitalizations and deaths per capita in the continental United States,” said Bullock. “I say this not to deemphasize the seriousness of new cases we’ve seen over the past few weeks, rather to underscore that we still can get a grasp on the spread of the virus in our state if we do better as Montanans.”

Bullock expressed disappointment with the public for failing to follow social-distancing standards and wear masks in public places and events, measures the state believes will help keep Montana safely open amid the coronavirus pandemic. Bullock specifically cited weddings, bars and businesses as epicenters for clusters of cases in the state.

The governor stressed the need for large groups to take precautions to prevent spread. He stated, “It doesn’t take a degree in disease management or epidemiology to understand that when you have large group sizes the more risk there is for everyone involved unless steps are taken to reduce that risk.”

Although, mask wearing and social distancing are the most effective ways to limit the spread of the virus in Montana, the governor did not mandate mask wearing in the state. He said he would prefer Montanans make mask wearing “socially acceptable” rather than a government mandate that would require local enforcement.

Regardless of increased cases, Montana has experienced few hospitalizations with 112 admissions since the arrival of coronavirus in the state. Of those 112, 20 are currently hospitalized which has been a positive for Montana’s hospitals which worried early on about running out of hospital beds to treat hundreds of simultaneous hospitalizations.


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