HELENA — A nursing facility in Butte has reported 10 COVID-19 related deaths in less than two weeks and Gallatin County on Friday enacted stricter measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Montana has hit a record for hospitalizations and the confirmed number of infection cases was closing in on 38,000, state officials said.
The state health department confirmed 986 more cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total for the past week to 6,040, or an average of 863 cases per day. Over the previous week, the daily average was 779.
Montana has reported 418 deaths, which may not include all 10 deaths tied to the outbreak at the Continental Care & Rehabilitation nursing facility in Butte.
The first deaths were reported on Oct. 28 and the most recent deaths were reported on Friday by Butte-Silver Bow Health Officer Karen Sullivan. At least 148 residents of Montana long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities have died of COVID-19, health officials said Thursday.
The Gallatin County health board on Friday said bars, restaurants and casinos must close by 10 p.m. instead of 12:30 a.m. They must also limit group sizes at tables to six adults plus children who are with a parent or guardian.
The board is requiring higher risk businesses, such as gyms, bars, restaurants and other places of assembly to limit patrons to 50% of capacity, down from 75%.
The board is also limiting most group gatherings to no more than 25 people, regardless of whether they’re inside or out or whether physical distancing can be maintained.
That is down from permitted group sizes of up to 50 without social distancing and larger groups with social distancing.
Gallatin County reported a record 224 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and has been averaging 123 cases per day over the past week.
In Flathead County, the health department says it does not have enough staff to alert all close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
County health workers will contact all people who have tested positive and will reach out to their close contacts who are in high-risk groups — such as the elderly, those who are immunocompromised or work in restaurant, school or health-care settings, the department said in a statement.
Those who test positive are being asked to notify any other close contacts of their potential exposure. Close contacts should self-quarantine for 14 days from their last exposure, officials said.
“Our case numbers are outpacing our staff’s capacity,” Interim Health Officer Tamalee St. James Robinson said in a statement, the Daily Inter Lake reported.
Since the pandemic began in mid-March, Montana has confirmed nearly 38,000 cases of COVID-19. The number of cases is believed to be far higher because not everyone has been tested and studies have shown some people can become infected without feeling sick.
A record 437 people are hospitalized, including 80 in intensive care units and 51 on ventilators as of Thursday, the state health department reported.
The Department of Corrections on Friday confirmed two COVID-related deaths among state inmates in October.
One died at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge on Oct. 24 and another who had been housed at the regional prison in Great Falls died at the hospital in Great Falls on Oct. 31.
For most people, the 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.
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