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Montana Commissioner Of Higher Education Tests Positive For COVID-19

Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian
Edward O'Brien
Montana Public Radio

Montana’s Commissioner of Higher Education is one of two people in Missoula County to test presumptively positive for the COVID-19 illness Saturday.

It’s believed Commissioner Clayton Christian was exposed at a Board of Regents meeting in Dillon on Thursday, Mar. 5. A person from Silver Bow County in attendance at that meeting was one of the first four in-state cases announced late Friday.

Numerous government and education officials were also present at the event, including Lieutenant Gov. Mike Cooney. Cooney announced late Saturday he tested negative for COVID-19 and has been asymptomatic. Cooney, who’s running for the Democratic nomination for governor, is in self-quarantine until Mar. 20, which is 14 days after his point of exposure, according to the Governor’s Office.

Commissioner Christian was tested in Missoula County and received his presumptive positive results Saturday. He is in isolation recovering at home.

“As a public official who interacts with many people on a day-to-day basis, it’s absolutely critical that I share these results and notify those I have come in contact with,” Commissioner Christian said via a press release. “I’m thankful to local public health as they work diligently to notify the people I came into contact with and make sure they have accurate information to prevent further spread.”

Regents in attendance at the Mar. 5 meeting hail from Missoula, Helena, Lakeside, Bozeman and Billings.

Christian’s announcement comes the same weekend as the Governor’s Office announced a total of six in-state COVID-19 cases out of Yellowstone, Gallatin, Silver Bow, Broadwater and Missoula counties.

All patients are in isolation and recovering at home. County public health officials are working to track down all people who have come in contact with the presumptive cases and requiring those contacts to self-quarantine and monitor body temperatures and symptoms at home.

Montana State University Billings Chancellor Dan Edelman announced Sunday he is self-quarantining following guidelines from state health care professionals because he was in contact with Commissioner Christian recently.

“I’m not exhibiting any symptoms, but am ensuring the health and well-being of our campus by self-quarantining—and urge you to do the same if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19,” Edelman wrote via press release.

Public health officials ramped up COVID-19 mitigation recommendations to practice social distancing. Yellowstone County’s Unified Health Command issued these everyday precautions:

Since we are still in the midst of cold and flu season, we all have a responsibility to reduce risks of respiratory illness, including COVID-19.

• Wash your hands thoroughly and often.

• Avoid touching your face.

• Avoid large crowds, especially in enclosed spaces.

• Encourage all family members to cover their cough and sneezes with a tissue.

• Maintain social distance to avoid possible exposure to viruses.

• Avoid handshakes and hugs.

• Frequently clean “high-touch” surfaces in your home or workplace. Disinfect doorknobs, handles, keyboards, railings, remote controls, tabletops and counters.