News & Features

Big Horn County Reports Confirmed Coronavirus Cases in Jail

County Public Information Officer Rhonda Johnson said all of the inmates who tested positive are asymptomatic

BILLINGS — Health officials in southern Montana have reported about 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday, including several inmates at the Big Horn County jail.

County Public Information Officer Rhonda Johnson said all of the inmates who tested positive are asymptomatic, and were moved into quarantine at the facility in Hardin, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Billings, the Billings Gazette reported.

Johnson could not confirm exactly how many inmates at the jail had tested positive, but there are 36 in the facility. Law enforcement did not immediately respond to clarify.

“The jail reported that the first inmates tested positive earlier in the week,” she said.

The county confirmed that a detention officer at the jail tested positive for COVID-19 last week, but the officer had not worked in the jail for three days prior to testing, Johnson said.

The jail started conducting testing monthly in May on all its inmates and staff members willing to take a test, but that stopped when a surge in case numbers forced the state to prioritize symptomatic testing and contract tracing of confirmed cases, officials said.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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.

Big Horn County has 206 active COVID-19 cases, the second highest in the state. The county includes both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations.

The Northern Cheyenne Incident Command Center reported 4 active COVID-19 cases as of Friday.