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COVID-19 Cases In Montana Schools Double

Nicky Ouellet
Yellowstone Public Radio
The novel coronavirus

Twice as many schools in Montana are reporting more than twice as many cases of the novel coronavirus among students and stuff over the week prior.

In a weekly report released Wednesday, the state health department announced 62 more schools reported coronavirus cases than the previous week, for a total of 121 schools kindergarten through university statewide.

294 cases among students and staff were added since the previous update, for a total of 488 known cases.

Universities are responsible for 204 of those.

Most of the kindergarten through grade 12 schools the state added report one or two cases. Flathead High School shows the most total cases at 20 and Great Falls High School follows at 11.

Jon Ebelt with the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services says state data often lag behind the county as local health jurisdictions prioritize contact tracing over reporting to the state.

Some school administrators say they’re also navigating discrepancies in data from different authorities.

Colstrip Public Schools Superintendent Bob Lewandowski says 29 percent of his students live out-of-district, and most of those are tribal members from the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

“For us, the biggest thing that we’ve dealt with at our school is dealing with two completely different governmental entities and the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and testing that takes place there and the information that the Rosebud County Health is able to ascertain," Lewandowsky says.

State health officials this week highlighted the Northern Cheyenne reservation and Rosebud County as areas with “significant” increases in COVID-19 cases.

On Thursday, Montana crested 300 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the first time in a single day. It reported a record 333 new cases from 4,358 tests.