First Cases of Coronavirus Variant Detected in Montana

Three cases of a variant of COVID-19 first identified in the United Kingdom were detected in Gallatin County

By Associated Press
Clinical personnel enters a sectioned-off area of Kalispell Regional Medical Center dedicated to active COVID-19 patients on July 31, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

HELENA – Three cases of a variant of COVID-19 first identified in the United Kingdom were detected in Gallatin County, Montana officials said Wednesday. These are the first cases of the more contagious variant confirmed in the state.

Gallatin County health officer Matt Kelley said in a statement that the county is working with the state to investigate when and how the variant first arrived in Montana.

“Well over 40 other states have identified the virus, so it stands to reason that it is in Montana as well,” Kelley said.

The three infected individuals reside in different areas of Gallatin County, and are not related to one another, according to Jon Ebelt, a spokesperson for the department of public health. None of the infected individuals reported any recent travel.

All three cases were detected in individuals under the age of 50. One individual was hospitalized but all have since recovered and been released from isolation, Ebelt said.

The public health department has tested 185 samples for variants of COVID-19, Ebelt said in an email, adding that the department expects to find more variant cases in Montana “as additional testing is performed.”

The U.K. variant was identified in the fall and was first detected in the U.S. in December. It spreads more easily and quickly than other variants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 2,500 cases of the variant have been confirmed in the U.S.

Since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Montana nearly a year ago, the state has reported over 100,000 cases, and 1,373 people have reportedly died of the virus.

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