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Montana Receives Second Highest Number Of COVID-19 Cases In Consecutive Days

A COVID-19 testing site at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, March 23, 2020..
Nicky Ouellet/Yellowstone Public Radio
A COVID-19 testing site at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, March 23, 2020..

Montana Receives Second Highest Number Of COVID-19 Cases In Consecutive Days

The State of Montana reported its second highest single day uptick in COVID-19 cases on Jun. 30. This comes after a new record count was set earlier this week.

The 49 positive tests reported on Jun. 30 are second only to Jun. 29 announcement of 56. Missoula, Gallatin and Yellowstone Counties saw the biggest rise in numbers at 20, 11 and 9 confirmed new cases respectively.

Park saw two new cases, and Big Horn, Carbon, Cascade, Deer Lodge, Lewis and Clark, Meagher and Valley counties all saw one new case.

The Missoula City County Health Department incident commander Cyndi Farr said in a video briefing that the county has seen an increase in the number of people experiencing symptoms and getting tested.

"I do want everyone to take the sudden jump in cases over the last few days seriously as we are seeing an alarming number of new positive cases," Farr said.

She added so many people called the information phone number recently that it overloaded the entire county telephone system. People can call that number to schedule tests, but she asked for patience as they expanded how many calls the system can handle.

Farr said the Missoula City County Health Department will no longer be testing asymptomatic people. She said they were hit hard and fast with the number of symptomatic people who needed testing recently and have a finite number of test kits and personnel.

She said they’re trying to hire more nurses to handle the extra volume.

Farr said contact tracing is more involved now that cases have risen and people are socializing more. She said Missoula County’s 42 active cases have been in contact with about 260 people, and the county is testing all of them.

Missoula Health Officer Ellan Leahy said this week the virus is spreading within the community, and there are situations of workplace clusters.

The Missoula Fire Department said in a press release that five firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19.

Leahy said travel related cases in the area came from Montanans who left the state and returned home.

Gallatin Health Officer Matt Kelley said while reopening the economy has played into the higher numbers of positive cases, it’s hard to pin down one major cause.

"If there was one specific thing that we could focus on or one activity we could end, we could say it and probably try to do it, but we’re seeing it in a lot of different settings," Kelley said, adding that includes workplaces, homes and bars.

Health officials in Yellowstone County point to group gatherings as largely responsible for recent spread. Health Officer John Felton added that the rise in cases coincides with more interstate travel.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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