Virus cases climb to 27 in Beaverhead County

By 
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Quality of life

Kay Gaines, sitting in the courtyard garden area, recently met with her mother at Pioneer Care and Rehab in Dillon. The facility arranges visits while maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols. Missy Westman photo

Beaverhead County had the biggest spike in one day for new coronavirus cases Saturday, with one individual hospitalized and 19 active cases as of Tuesday.

Beaverhead County’s case count more than doubled over the past week, going from 12 to 27 total cases as of Tuesday. Active cases grew from five to 19 in that time. Gov. Steve Bullock’s mask order is in effect for the county.

Statewide, Montana saw its largest increase in cases so far at 224 on Saturday. As of Tuesday, Montana tallied 3,475 total cases and 51 deaths, or 763 new cases and 11 new deaths over the past week. Most of the deaths have been in Yellowstone County, followed by Custer with two; Lake, Lincoln, Glacier and Sweet Grass with one each. Nationally, there are over 4.2 million positive cases and 146,500 deaths as of Monday.

The majority of Beaverhead’s positive cases are in the 20-29 age range at seven (four women and three men). The next largest segment is five people in the 70-29 age range (two women and three men). There are three total cases in each of the 0-9, 40-49, 60-69 and 80- 89 age ranges; and one case in each of the 10-19, 30-39, and 50-59 age ranges. One of the active cases is hospitalized, public health said Friday.

Residents are reminded that they will not be contacted by public health staff if they are not considered a close contact of a virus-positive individual. A close contact is someone who was within six feet for at least 15 minutes of a positive case.

The increases in cases pushed Barrett Hospital to institute visitor restrictions. Visitors are not allowed at any Barrett Hospital & HealthCare site, a press release issued July 22 said. That includes the hospital and clinic buildings. Compassionate exceptions are coordinated and authorized prior to any entry into a building.

In roughly a week since Bullock instituted his mask requirement, many of the case clusters popping up around the state can be traced to large gatherings such as weddings. Overall, the largest number of cases are coming from Montana residents, not out-of-staters, who interact with a large group of people without masks or other protections, and then socialize with others. Some of the cases can be linked to work sites, Bullock said in a July 22 news conference.

Also this week, Montana State University began its partnership with the state to test asymptomatic individuals. Bullock and Montana State University President Waded Cruzado announced MSU began surveillance testing up to 500 asymptomatic people Monday, and MSU is working on setting up “batch” testing. Batch testing allows for more tests to be done at the same time, reducing the need for testing supplies and speeding up the process.

The ability to test large numbers of asymptomatic residents halted previously, due to a test processing backlog at Quest Diagnostics. Tests were coming back up to 10 days after a test was taken, which was unacceptable to state officials.

The public health board will meet Friday to review reopening plans for area schools.