HELENA — A staff member in Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s office tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesperson for the governor said Wednesday, but Bullock and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney have tested negative for the respiratory virus.
Bullock and Cooney were not considered close contacts of the infected staffer, who has not been in the office this week, spokesperson Erin Loranger said.
Bullock, a Democrat running to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines in a hotly contested race, will not quarantine under advice from the state’s chief medical officer Dr. Greg Holzman. He will continue to be regularly tested over the next few days, Loranger said.
Cooney is the Democrat running for governor against Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte.
The staff member tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing symptoms, Loranger said. Four additional staff members in the governor’s office are considered close contacts and will remain in quarantine for 14 days.
Masks are worn in the governor’s office and all staff members’ temperatures are checked each morning, according to Loranger.
The announcement comes as the COVID-19 case count and hospitalizations in Montana continues to rise.
State health officials reported 632 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases diagnosed in the state to nearly 30,000. The number of cases is thought to be far higher because not everyone has been tested and people can have COVID-19 without showing symptoms.
Officials reported 325 deaths related to the coronavirus, an increase of 20 from the previous day. The sharp increase accounts for a lag in reporting data, according to a state health department spokesperson. Twelve deaths occurred in Cascade County between Oct. 15-27, the county said. Five of those deaths are still not included in the state’s total.
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.
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