GALLATIN MEDIA CENTER
BOZEMAN – The Gallatin City-County Health Department provided additional details on three cases of COVID-19 in Gallatin County that were classified as a variant strain of the virus. Based on contact tracing data associated with the cases, the following is known:
- All three cases are Gallatin county residents and live in different parts of the county;
- All three cases are under 50 years old;
- One case was hospitalized but is no longer in the hospital;
- All of the cases are recovered and have been released from isolation;
- The health department has not identified any evident connection between the three cases;
- None of the cases reported any recent travel history.
Health Officer Matt Kelley said the lack of connection between the cases and absence of travel history are indications that the variant form of the virus may be circulating widely in Montana, a fact that should not be surprising considering the variant has been detected in well over 40 other states. He said the identification of the cases should be a reminder to all Montanans why it’s important to continue taking precautions to prevent spread, including avoidance of large groups where social distancing is difficult, continued use of face coverings in public settings, staying home when sick, frequent and thorough hand washing, and getting the vaccine when available to you.
Kelley noted that the presence of the variant strain also reinforces the importance of public health rules – such as requiring use of face coverings in public settings—that help slow spread and protect the most vulnerable.
“These measures are vitally important to protecting the thousands of Montanans who do not yet have access to the vaccine,” Kelley said.
At a March 5 press conference, Kelley noted that one of the reasons the county was able to distinguish the variant is because of our access to lab testing at Montana State University. He says it has been proven that this variant spreads more rapidly and that may result in higher hospitalizations, and ultimately deaths, but that much is unknown yet.
“The good news is the things that we’ve been doing to protect ourselves and others still holds,” Kelley said, noting that physical distancing, hand washing, mask wearing and avoiding large gatherings should all still be practiced. “While we should all be really thankful that we have access to these vaccines, there are still some risks out there and we’re not done with this yet.”