HELENA — Montana health officials on Wednesday reported 18 more cases of COVID-19 and the death of a Big Horn County woman in her 30s, bringing the death toll in the state to 20.
The latest death was the third in Big Horn County, which reported its first on June 5.
The 18 new cases mark the highest daily total since April 8. Officials said there were 73 positive tests from June 10-16, compared to 39 in the previous week. Five people remain hospitalized.
Montana has reported a total of 23 new cases in the past two days. Eight were diagnosed in Custer County.
Officials attributed the increase to reopening the state economy and increased testing.
Gov. Steve Bullock and health officials have been stressing that the number of positive cases will likely increase further as the reopening continues.
The state is now testing everyone who comes in close contact with people who have the virus — symptomatic and asymptomatic — following a recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Previously, only symptomatic close contacts were tested, said Jon Ebelt, public information officer for the Montana Department of Public Health and human Services.
“Clusters of cases involving close associations have been identified. That is good news because we’re able to recognize cases early,” Ebelt said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. 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.
Bullock planned to announce a new loan deferment program on Wednesday that would use federal coronavirus relief funding to help medium and large businesses free up operating capital as the economy recovers.
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