Montana care home sees 15th death; more virus tests pending

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

BILLINGS, July 24 (AP) – A senior home in Montana that has been pummeled by a coronavirus outbreak that infected nearly every resident has seen another death as the number of confirmed virus cases to date topped 3,000 statewide on Friday.

Health officials confirmed 129 additional cases of the virus, one of the highest daily totals yet. Yellowstone County, which includes Billings, again accounted for the highest number of new cases, with 40.

Health officials also announced the first death from the virus in Glacier County – a woman in her 80s – bringing the number of fatalities in the state to 46. Glacier County includes much of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and parts of Glacier National Park.

Canyon Creek Memory Care in Billings saw its 15th death on Thursday: 88-year-old Richard Donovan, a retired Cascade County sheriff’s deputy, his daughter confirmed. More than a quarter of the 59 residents living at the facility when an outbreak erupted three weeks ago have now died.

“The thing that I’m struggling with, as many families have dealt with or are dealing with, is not being able to be there in those final days or moments,” Pam Donovan said of her father’s death.

“I also feel for the nurses and staff,” she added. “I know this is hard on them.”

At least 55 residents and 36 Canyon Creek staff have tested positive for the virus. Retests were administered Thursday to residents and staff who previously were negative, but no results were immediately available, said Canyon Creek operator Koelsch Communities of Olympia, Washington.

According to tallies by The Associated Press and others, an excess of 40% of the nation’s more than 144,000 deaths from COVID-19 have involved nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

The number of infections is thought to be much higher because many people have not been tested. Testing of asymptomatic people, which experts say is needed to help control the virus’s spread, was scaled back in Montana last week because of laboratory backlogs. Officials have been scrambling to come up with alternative arrangements.

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