Beaverhead County virus case count up 14 to 64

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Coronavirus cases continue to rise throughout the state, with Beaverhead County clocking 14 new cases overall in the past week.

Beaverhead County tallied a total of 64 cases with 12 active as of Tuesday, according to the state’s coronavirus tracking website. The majority of the cases (18) are from individuals in the 20-29 age range; followed by eight people in each of the 40-49, 50-59 and 70-79 age ranges.

The county has not registered a death as of Tuesday, according to state data. The state saw 790 new cases and 13 new deaths over the week, with new deaths tallied in Big Horn, Cascade, Hill, Richland, Lewis and Clark, Stillwater and Yellowstone counties.

Beaverhead County Public Health posts its most recent totals on its Facebook page. The most recent public health post Monday listed the county had 64 total cases, with 12 active cases and one current hospitalization.

Public health officials said previously their counts are the most recent, as they receive updates multiple times a day.

As of Tuesday, the state had a total of 5,104 virus cases and 77 deaths. As of Monday, there were more than 5 million total cases and 161,800 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Mail-in election allowed for November

Gov. Steve Bullock announced last week he will allow county officials to determine if they want to have a mail-ballot election in November. His directive mirrors one put in place for the primary election earlier this year, Bullock said.

“We must protect Montanans’ right to vote, while protecting the public’s health,” he said, noting U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials have determined voting in person on election day risks transmitting the coronavirus to voters waiting to cast ballots.

The directive does not prevent in-person voting, but requires counties make the process as safe as possible by ensuring social distancing, disinfection, cleaning and other precautions. Counties that choose to expand mail voting are encouraged to publicize the change to ensure the public knows how it can vote, and when. It also expands the timelines for voter registration, and makes ballots available beginning Oct. 2 through the day of the election. There will be no postage cost to mail the ballots back in.

Beaverhead County has not finalized its decision on whether to move to a mail ballot election, though Clerk and Recorder/Elections Administrator Stacey Reynolds discussed the possibility with the county commissioners Monday. Reynolds said the majority of her election judges said they are willing to work a polling place, but were wary of having to enforce the protective requirements to mitigate virus spread. Those responses had her leaning toward offering the mail-in election option. There could still be in-person voting the day of the election at the elections office in Dillon, but maybe not at other locations in the county.

During the primary election, ballot drop-off locations were set up around the county. Reynolds said that worked out well and she would probably do that again.

Reynolds added results tend to come back more quickly with mail in ballots, as all ballots have to be in their office by 8 p.m. Elections staff do not have to wait for polls to close in the outlying precincts. The results must then be tallied at the precincts and returned to the elections office in Dillon, which adds time.

The county commission will consider a resolution on a mail-in general election at its next meeting Aug. 17.