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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

COVID-19 Spike Tied To Fourth Of July Weekend, Health Officials Say

Active COVID-19 Cases in Montana by County, July 17, 2020.
Montana Department of Public Health And Human Services
Active COVID-19 Cases in Montana by County, July 17, 2020.

For the third day in a row, Montana has added more than 100 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. That brings the state’s total number of active infections to more than 1,300. Rural counties in the northwest corner of the state are seeing large spikes in cases.

While most of the newest COVID-19 cases have come from the more populous Missoula and Yellowstone counties, health officials in northwest Montana say a steep rise in cases stems from Fourth of July holiday gatherings. Emily Colomeda with the Lake County health department says community spread among locals became evident following the holiday weekend.

"I think people were anxious to get out, and they had an excuse to celebrate, so they did."

Lake County has added more than 70 cases since July 7, and as of Friday morning had 81 active cases, according to the health department’s Facebook page.

Lincoln County only had a handful of cases going into the Fourth of July weekend, but had 35 active cases Friday morning, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard count. County health officials there say they are seeing preliminary evidence of community spread.

According to the Montana coronavirus dashboard, the virus is now present in 37 of Montana’s 56 counties.

The state health department’s most recent analysis of cases through July 10 shows more than a third of the cases announced this month are related to cluster outbreaks. The vast majority of recent cases were contracted within Montana’s borders, as opposed to out of state travel.

The state health department reports that 141 people who’ve tested positive for the virus are not Montana residents and aren’t counted in the state’s totals. The analysis also shows people in their 20s account for nearly a quarter of the state’s total infections. Half of the state’s cases are people between the ages of 24 and 58.

CORRECTION: This story previously misstated the number of active infections in Montana. It has been corrected to reflect the 1,300 active cases.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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