By Mira Brody EBS STAFF
BOZEMAN – Gallatin County saw 286 new positive COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, Nov. 11, the highest number of confirmed cases the Health Department has seen at once since the beginning of the pandemic. A total of 923 active cases are ongoing within the county and currently 16 people are hospitalized due to the virus. The county confirmed three additional deaths related to COVID-19 on Nov. 9, increasing the death total to 13.
At a Nov. 12 press conference, Gallatin City-County Health Department Health Officer Matt Kelley was joined by Kallie Kujawa, who leads the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital COVID-19 response team. The hospital has implemented contingency staffing efforts, where staff who have been exposed to the disease, but are asymptomatic, are being asked to work and provide care in order to keep the hospital running.
With the current rate of case increase, Health Department contact tracing staff are not able to keep up with cases, but are working to do everything they can to contact those who have been exposed to the virus.
Kelley urged the community to understand that everyone’s actions have a direct impact on those frontline workers. He is asking everyone to exercise extreme caution, to stay home whenever possible, limit grocery trips, wear a mask in public and practice social distancing.
“We need help from the community we need everyone to understand that their actions matter,” Kelley said. “Assume the virus is everywhere you go because it is.”
At a Nov. 12 press conference, Gov. Steve Bullock said Congress hasn’t passed the relief package that would make it possible for further phased shutdowns that could better control the virus. He instead, alongside state health officials including State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman, implored the community to follow the guidelines that are in place to ease strain on the state’s healthcare workers. He said four Montana hospitals are currently at their capacity.
“It took a little over six months for Montana to reach its first ten thousand cases, but only 25 days to reach the second ten thousand cases, and only 15 days to reach the third ten thousand cases on Oct. 28. It took 11 days to reach 40,000 cases on Nov. 8,” Bullock said. “For those who think that hospitals at capacity or deaths caused by COVID-19 are not enough to be concerned about this virus, consider how the rising number of infection impact the livelihoods of those in our communities.”
So far, Great Falls, Bozeman, Billings and Butte have been identified as hotspots and enforced restrictions on local businesses in their jurisdiction. Montana still has a mask requirement in place for all counties with more than five active cases of the virus.
“I don’t bring this up to scare people but we need to be very clear and respond now otherwise some of the darkest days could be before us,” Holzman said, noting that in just nine months, COVID-19 has become the fourth leading cause of death in the state. “Please stop the arguing about what one does not want to do and ask yourself ‘what can I do?’”