HELENA — Montana health officials on Thursday reported 67 confirmed cases of COVID-19, setting a record high for reported cases in a day in the state.
The reported cases brings the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Montana since Sunday to 222 — which is more than 20% of the 1,083 total cases reported in the state since March.
Fourteen people in the state were hospitalized as of Thursday, and 22 have died.
As cases across Montana surge, Gov. Steve Bullock has so far resisted calls to impose any additional statewide mandates to prevent the spread of the virus. The Democratic governor was expected to speak to reporters Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, local officials are beginning to push for stricter measures, including mandatory mask wearing in public spaces. Missoula city and county officials requested the local public health officer issue an order requiring people to wear masks or cloth face coverings in licensed businesses to prevent the spread of the virus.
“While an ordinance requiring face coverings is an option for local government, a health order allows for enforcement through licensure in businesses accustomed to enforcing health standards to operate,” the letter written by Missoula Mayor John Engen and co-signed by three county commissioners said, according to the Missoulian.
In Lewis and Clark County, elected officials warned residents Wednesday that they will implement new restrictions if people don’t follow guidelines like mask-wearing and social distancing.
“No one wants to go to a mandate,” Lewis and Clark County Commission Chairwoman Susan Geise said, according to the Independent Record. “This is your last chance.”
Meanwhile, the number of applications for unemployment benefits in Montana fell nearly 16% to 2,523 for the week that ended Saturday.
That’s still an increase of 258% compared to the number of applications submitted the same week last year, the U.S. Employment and Training Administration said.
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.
Iris Samuels is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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