County active case count flirts with mask proviso

By 
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Beaverhead County's coronavirus active cases hovered in the mask-requirement range over the past week, with up to five active cases reported Monday.

The active case count dropped to three as of Thesday morning, according to the state of Montana website.

A woman in her 30s and a man in his 40s tested positive for the county over the week, according to state of Montana data. The county reported 77 cases overall as of Thesday. There were no new deaths reported.

Statewide cases climbed, passing 10,000 positive cases overall and more than 150 deaths since recording began in March. As of Thesday, there were 10,700 total cases and 163 deaths in the state, an increase of 1,456 cases and 23 deaths over the past week. The state set a record for the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases - and deaths - recorded in a day, at 293 new cases and 10 deaths on Saturday. The past week's deaths were recorded in Flathead, Gallatin, Meagher, Rosebud and Yellowstone counties.

In a press call Thesday morning, Gov. Steve Bullock and state medical and epidemiological professionals urged residents to continue to wear masks and keep physically separated as much as possible.

Lead Communicable Disease Epidemiologist Stacey Anderson attributed the increasing numbers of cases to a number of congregate settings, including reopened schools at all grade levels, social events and Labor Day activities. And er son said there was an uptick in positive cases for all age groups, but significant increases in those under age 19, and those in the 20-39 age ranges.

"Until we have an effective vaccine or treatment for COVID, the best way to protect yourself and the people around you is practicing social distancing, maintaining that six feet of distance between each other, and when you can't do that - wear a mask. Wear it correctly, over your nose. If you are sick, stay home, until we can rule out that you don't have COVID. Avoid others around you that are sick. Wash your hands frequently,'' she said, adding these steps will also reduce the spread of the influenza virus this fall and winter.

State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman said COVID-19 now is one of the leading causes of death in Montana, and is higher on that scale than fatalities in traffic accidents. COVID-19 is the third-highest cause of death in the United States overall.

Holzman reminded residents the virus has no political agenda and will continue until effective treatments or vaccines are developed.

"It doesn't matter who wins the election in November ... the virus does not have a political affiliation. It will just continue on," he said. "I hope a vaccine is around the corner, I hope that it is effective and safe. If it meets all those requirements I will be in line to get it. But to sit around and wait for that and allow more people to die, to allow more people to suffer, allow more people to have huge medical bills when they spend a long time in the ICU, is not something I’m willing to stand for and I hope others aren’t, either.”

School COVID information released weekly

Montana’s Department of Health and Human Services began reporting K-12 and university COVID-19 confirmed cases on its website Sept. 16. The weekly report breaks down schools where cases were reported, whether the cases were for students or staff, and the total number of cases associated with the district or university.

Bullock and state health officials said previously COVID-19 cases at universities would be counted as if the person on campus is a resident of that county, regardless if they are an out-ofstate student.

Smaller schools’ data will not be as detailed, Bullock said last week, to protect individual privacy rights. Schools with over 50 students will break out data by the name of the school and how many students and staff tested positive for each county. Schools with between 11 and 50 students will denote how many students and staff tested positive, but will not distinguish between them. Schools with fewer than 10 students will not be reported. The report is accessible through a link on the DPHHS COVID-19 demographic data website at https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/ diseases/coronavirusmt/demographics .

The state report did not list any cases for the University of Montana Western in Dillon, or any Beaverhead County K-12 schools. However, Beaverhead County Public Health reported nine total COVID-19 cases from the UMW campus since school began Aug. 24. All of those cases have since recovered and were already included in county totals, Beaverhead County Public Health Director Sue Hansen said. The data will be updated weekly on the county public health website at https://beaverheadcounty.org/departments/public-health/ .

There were more than 6.7 million positive cases and 199,000 deaths recorded nationwide as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.