Gov. Steve Bullock on Friday evening said Montana’s public health department has confirmed the first positive cases of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, documented so far in the state.
According to a press release from Bullock’s office, there are four presumptively positive cases in the counties of Gallatin, Yellowstone, Silver Bow, and Lewis and Clark.
“We’ve been monitoring this rapidly evolving situation and vigorously preparing for COVID-19 to reach Montana, making today’s news unsurprising,” Bullock said. “As our public health officials work relentlessly to prevent further spread, I urge all Montanans to continue efforts to plan and follow public health recommendations to take the proper precautions.”
The announcement came just hours after President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency in order to free up more money and resources.
In Montana, the tests were conducted by the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Public Health Laboratory. As is current standard, test results are considered “presumptively positive” and will be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
DPHHS and all involved local county health departments are immediately following up to learn more details about the four individuals’ exposure risk, travel history, and to identify and communicate with anyone who may have been in close contact with the patients.
This is the extent of the information on the four patients at this time:
The Gallatin patient is a male in their 40s.
The Yellowstone patient is a female in their 50s.
The Silver Bow patient is a male in their 50s.
The Lewis and Clark patient is a male in their 50s.
As more details are available, the governor’s office will provide timely updates, according to Bullock’s office.
All patients will be isolated pursuant to public health guidelines. Those who came into close contact with the individuals will be monitored for 14 days for fever and respiratory symptoms per CDC guidance.
As of Friday, the Montana DPHHS has tested a total of 107 individuals for COVID-19. These numbers are updated daily here: https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusmt
The state currently has the capacity to test approximately 1,000 individuals and anticipates receiving more tests from the CDC as needed.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-Montana, released the following statement after the four Montana cases were confirmed:
“The first cases of COVID-19 in Montana have been confirmed, and I am coordinating closely with the Governor’s office and federal agencies as I monitor the situation,” said Tester. “This outbreak is serious, which is why I’ve introduced legislation to ensure that testing for this disease is free to all Montanans, and why I’ve been holding the Administration accountable to make sure that folks have access to timely information about test kits and proper protection. I encourage everyone to take proper safety measures, and I will continue working to keep Montanans safe.”
On Thursday, Bullock declared a state of emergency in Montana to direct a coordinated response to COVID-19 and mobilize all available state resources including emergency funds or personnel from the National Guard. It also allows the governor to take additional steps as warranted.
To bolster the state’s response to the coronavirus situation, Bullock launched a Coronavirus Task Force on March 3 to coordinate efforts across state government. The Task Force, led by Adjutant General Matthew Quinn, is now providing ways state residents can ask questions related to the coronavirus situation in Montana.
A coronavirus (COVID-19) information phone line at 1-888-333-0461 has been launched and Montanans can also email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. State public health officials will be responding to inquiries from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. Montanans can also visit covid19.mt.gov to receive regularly updated information on COVID-19.
According to CDC, the elderly and people who have severe chronic medical conditions seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness. Early data suggest older people are twice as likely to have serious illness. Reported illnesses in the US have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath.