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Health

COVID-19 Cases Continue To Rise In Montana Schools

Wooden classroom desks

The number of total COVID-19 cases associated with K-12 schools in Montana has doubled over a two week stretch, according to the most recent state data. Gallatin County has started releasing supplemental weekly reports with new CDC metrics to help schools make decisions.

Over 600 students and more than 250 K-12 staff across the state tested positive for the coronavirus through Oct. 9.

Schools in Hardin, Terry, Broadus and Glasgow have each seen a significant increase in new cases since the end of September.

Gallatin County’s weekly surveillance report shows a dozen schools in the county have active cases, although the numbers associated with each are less than five.

During a press call Friday, Gallatin County Health Officer Matt Kelley said right now the cases associated with the schools reflect what’s happening across the county.

In an effort to help schools make decisions as COVID-19 numbers continue to climb, the public health department will put out a supplemental report each week using new CDC guidelines released last month.

“We wanted to try to be good partners with schools to make sure that we’re allowing them to see what our local epidemiology looks like in relation to what the CDC Indicators for Dynamic School Decision Making are,” Kelley said.

Those metrics include looking at the number of cases per 100,000 people and the percent of tests that are positive over the past 14 days as opposed to one week, which is what public health departments across the country have been using.

Using the new CDC metrics, Gallatin County is in the red for number of cases per 100,000 people, indicating the highest risk of transmission in schools, and orange for the percentage of positive tests, indicating a higher risk of transmission.

Another CDC metric is the percentage of critical care hospital beds that are available. Right now Bozeman Health Deaconess is reporting around 35 percent are open.

Kelley said hospital administrators are feeling pretty confident with their capacity but that can change quickly.