HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Health officials in Montana announced two deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, one connected to an outbreak at a nursing home in Billings and the other in Lewis and Clark County.
A man in his 70s died early Thursday at Canyon Creek Memory Care which has lost eight other residents to the respiratory virus, said the Yellowstone County health department.
Lewis and Clark County announced its first death due to complications from COVID-19, a person over the age of 65 who died Tuesday. No other information on the person was released.
Thirty-six Montana residents have died of the respiratory virus, including 16 who were residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities. Thirty-seven people remain hospitalized, including 24 of them in Yellowstone County, health officer John Felton said Thursday.
Felton expressed frustration that people who have been ordered to quarantine are out running errands or visiting friends and that the county's efforts to trace the contacts of those who have tested positive are slowed by those contacts not answering the phone or returning calls, The Billings Gazette reported.
“It is the action that each one of us as individuals take that will ultimately save our community from more sick people, more grieving families, more lost jobs and more closed businesses,” Felton said during a news conference.
The state reported another 134 virus cases Thursday, raising its total confirmed cases to 2,231. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested.
Applications for unemployment assistance held steady last week, federal officials said. At least 126,000 Montanans have been unemployed at some point since the pandemic began, accounting for nearly 28% of the workforce eligible for unemployment insurance.
The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which pays an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits, ends on Saturday, the state Department of Labor and Industry said. Regular unemployment benefits are based on wages and range between $169 and $572 per week
In other coronavirus-related developments:
— Gov. Steve Bullock announced $75 million in funding for schools to implement COVID-19 precautions. The money will be distributed based on enrollment and can be used for transportation costs, hiring additional staff or buying more supplies. Schools earlier received about $41 million directly from federal coronavirus relief funds. School districts will receive personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and thermometers from a state supply, Bullock said Wednesday. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen said Wednesday she wasn't consulted about the funding.
— Bullock said the state may have to pause surveillance testing for COVID-19 because the out-of-state lab contracted to carry out those tests has a backlog and won't process any Montana tests for two to three weeks. Jim Murphy, head of the state health department's communicable disease bureau, said the state lab can still process all the tests it receives for people with symptoms of the respiratory virus. who
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.