Eight new COVID-19 cases were reported in Montana on Friday, according to the Montana Response COVID-19 tracking map .
Six of the new cases are in Big Horn County, and one new case each in Gallatin County and Missoula County.
The number of cumulative recoveries increased by three to 448 over the latest 24-hour reporting period.
The state also added a new hospitalization bringing the total to two people currently receiving care in a medical facility.
The total number of tests statewide increased by 1,734 to reach a total of 38,529. The state death toll from the virus remains at 17.
NOTE: MTN is reporting one fewer total cases and one fewer recovered cases due to a case in Jefferson County that public health authorities report involved a patient who was not in the state.
The jump in cases brings the cumulative state total to 493 and the active cases statewide to 28. Big Horn County now has 15 active cases, Yellowstone County has two, Toole County has one, Missoula County has one, and Gallatin County has one.
The other eight active cases are in Ravalli County, which were announced several days ago . The eight cases are employees of the Stock Farm Club, a private resort near Hamilton. Stock Farm Club CEO Steve Buck told MTN News the cases came to light when one employee of the housing and golf development wasn't feeling well last week. Buck says the Club contacted the Ravalli County Health Department for guidance and that resulted in tests which confirmed the first case, and found the additional cases that were reported at the beginning of last week.
The spike in Ravalli County prompted some national news outlets to report on Tuesday that Montana had experienced a 450% increase in COVID-19 cases - which, while mathematically accurate, was very misleading due to the extremely small number of cases in Montana.
Governor Steve Bullock announced two weeks ago that the state will move to phase two of the "Reopening The Big Sky" plan on Monday, June 1st. Bullock noted that Montana continues to have the lowest number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations per capita in the nation.
Bullock outlined the following indicators which prompted him - in consultation with public health officials and disaster response personnel - to move into Phase Two beginning on June 1:
- A downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period.
- The current ability to contact and trace, along with plans to add additional contact tracers to the existing workforce.
- Ensuring that health care workers have the supplies they need to treat COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
- Ramping up testing capacity to eventually meet a target of 60,000 tests a month and prioritizing testing for vulnerable Montanans and tribal communities. A total of 5,600 tests were conducted last week. Increased testing continues with sentinel testing efforts in nursing homes and assisting living facilities, testing events in tribal areas, and drive through testing being conducted at a few sites.
Here are some of the highlights of phase two:
- Avoid gatherings in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing. Groups larger than 50 people should be cancelled unless physical distancing can be maintained. It is recommended to continue to social distance in gatherings of any size.
- Restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, and casinos remains in the same operations status as Phase One, but with an increase to 75% capacity.
- Gyms, indoor group fitness classes, pool, and hot tubs can operate at 75% capacity and only if they can adhere to strict physical distancing and they exercise frequent sanitation protocols.
- Concert halls, bowling alleys, and other places of assembly may operate with reduced capacity and if they adhere to strict physical distancing guidelines.
- All businesses are required to follow the social distancing and sanitation guidelines established in Phase One, and Montanans are strongly encouraged to continue sanitation practices, including hand washing and wearing masks in public places like grocery stores.