Montana reports 50 new COVID cases as spike continues

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials reported another 50 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, pushing the state's total over the 1,000 mark.

“This is not a milestone to be celebrated, it’s one that showcases the virus hasn’t gone away," Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement Wednesday, urging residents to wear masks and take other precautions.

“We always knew that as we opened things up and provided for greater testing, we’d see additional cases,” he said.

The new cases, including 15 in Yellowstone County, brought the state's total confirmed cases to 1,016. Fourteen people are hospitalized and 22 people have died. More than 330 people are known to be currently infected, including 68 in Yellowstone County and 50 in Gallatin County.

Montana has reported 155 cases in the past three days, compared to 61 in the three days before that, state officials said.

The state reported 498 cases of COVID-19 in June compared to 66 in May. Montana entered the second phase of reopening on June 1, eliminating the 14-day quarantine mandate for out-of-state travelers and allowing groups of up to 50 people to meet.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Montana has the lowest per capita positive cases and deaths in the country, but Bullock said it is evident people have let their guard down.

“Let’s commit to taking extra precautions and wearing masks when indoors and in crowds,” Bullock said. "Let’s recommit to taking care of our neighbors so we can move forward together and not have to take any steps backwards.”

Of the 20 confirmed new cases in Missoula County on Tuesday, five are members of the Missoula Fire Department, the Missoulian reported. The cases were identified after a firefighter tested positive for the virus last week, prompting additional testing in the department.

Officials do not believe there is an exposure risk for members of the public because department personnel wear protective gear on service calls.

RiverStone Health in Yellowstone County said its current caseload is stressing the resources of Billings Clinic and the county health department's ability to trace contacts of those who have tested positive. The caseload is also beginning to outpace the health department's ability to monitor and follow-up with those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

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.

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