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Montana’s COVID-19 Active Case Count Rises To 55

A photo of COVID-19 testing in the Crow Agency taken on May 27, 2020
Nicky Ouellet
Yellowstone Public Radio
A photo of the Montana state line sign.

Montana’s COVID-19 case count continues to rise as travel restrictions and business closures are lifted and testing becomes more widely available. The state health department added 14 new lab confirmed cases on June 4.

Health Officer Matt Kelley said in a press call Thursday that Gallatin County has 11 active cases of COVID-19.

“We are seeing cases with no clear link to other cases or to travel out of state. This is an indication that we are once again seeing community transmission of the virus in Gallatin County,” Kelley said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says community transmission or spread means some people with the disease are not sure how or where they became infected.

“In some ways, this is not surprising. We expected to see more cases as we worked to ease certain restrictions on more businesses and manage the end of the governor’s stay at home directive,” Kelley said.

On a press call shortly after, Gov. Steve Bullock said the recent bump in cases were expected and would not lead him to reinstate business closures and travel restrictions that have been lifting in phases since April.

“Where I would have much greater concern is if we got back to a point where we had widespread community spread, meaning that COVID-19 is potentially more cases in a community and we can’t identify where those cases were coming from,” Bullock said.

The state and partners have recently expanded testing to anyone who wants to be tested at long term care facilities and tribal reservations, with plans to begin surveillance testing in some communities, clinics, emergency rooms and dentist offices.

Surveillance testing means a sample group in a community or workplace is tested to monitor the spread of the disease.

While most tests from surveillance events returned negative, Big Horn County identified several cases where the patient showed no symptoms. Officials say catching these asymptomatic spreaders is vital to containing the virus through isolation and contact tracing.

As of June 4, Montana’s statewide database showed a total of 55 active COVID-19 cases. Big Horn County had the most with 27 active cases. Yellowstone County had 12, many associated with the county’s jail, while Ravalli and Missoula counties each had one active case.