By Mira Brody EBS STAFF
HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock is addressing a “new high” in COVID-19 cases occurring across Montana.
At a morning press conference today, Bullock named Deer Lodge, Rosebud, Northern Cheyenne, Flathead, Roosevelt, Fort Peck, Missoula and Yellowstone counties as problem areas and noted that school reopenings as well as social gatherings, which he referred to as “congregate settings,” are contributing factors.
Bullock was joined at the press conference by Jim Murphy, bureau chief of the Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau; Stacey Anderson, lead communicable disease epidemiologist; and Greg Holzman, state medical officer.
Murphy reported that 100 people are currently hospitalized in the state due to COVID-19 and over 160 have died. He noted that there was a stabilization in case numbers from July to mid-September, but that stabilization has ended as the state began seeing a significant spike.
Anderson said that although all age groups are affected, 90 percent of positive cases in the last two weeks are in the 19-and-under age group. Fortunately, Montana currently has enough tests to meet the needs of symptomatic individuals and the turnaround time is currently one to three-days.
“Political spin will not stop the coronavirus,” Holzman said. “We need to continue to work together to decrease the diseases in our community. We have some ways to make a difference and … unless people take those steps in place [the virus] will continue on.”
Holzman said that although most people recover, that medical professionals still need time to fully understand the long term consequences of COVID-19. He said although those with underlying conditions are more susceptible, healthy individuals have been shown to have long-term heart and organ complications, and it remains unclear as to why.
“If you have the virus, follow guidance from health officials and know that you can spread it to someone else,” Holzman said, urging for personal responsibility.
On a more positive note, Bullock announced that Montana ranks sixth in the nation on employment performance since the pre-COVID-19 recession peak.
“A healthy economy is truly reliant on a healthy population,” Bullock said. “A healthy population relies on masking up, avoiding large gatherings, staying home when sick and following quarantine orders from your local health department.”