Montana reports 7th death; Missoula County closes fabric shops, reports new cases

A seventh person has died as a result of the COVID-19 virus, the state reported Monday, and the number of positive cases in Missoula County climbed to 32.

The Missoula City-County Health Department also expanded the list of nonessential businesses Monday to fabric and hobby shops, citing a legal opinion sought from the state by another county.

They will be required to close, along with a list of other businesses.

“Once we got this legal opinion, we had to change course and ask those businesses to close,” said Cindy Farr, head of the local pandemic response. “Social distancing and staying at home are the best tools we have to slow the spread of COVID-19. To dismiss social distancing to get supplies to make face coverings goes against that objective.”

As the number of cases statewide closed in on 400 patients Monday, the state announced Montana’s seventh COVID-19 death. Gov. Steve Bullock identified the individual only as Flathead County resident.

No additional information was released.

“I am saddened to hear of another death due to COVID-19 in Montana and am thinking of the family and friends who are grieving the loss of this fellow Montanan,” Bullock said in a statement. “We must stay vigilant in our efforts to stay home and take all precautions to protect our family, friends, and Montana’s most vulnerable during this difficult time.”

Montana cases by day.

While the state places the number of confirmed cases in Missoula County at 30, the City-County Health Department increased that number to 32 on Monday.

Farr said all the cases in Missoula had previously been confirmed through laboratory testing. When an individual tests positive, health officials begin a case investigation and work to track down any close contacts.

Those close contacts are asked to self quarantine for 14 days, or until the incubation period expires. Two have since developed symptoms of the virus.

“Since sampling resources are tight, we can use a case classification that’s well established in epidemiology to consider the person a case without actually testing them,” Farr said.

“With COVID, we know the symptoms, the onset and that it passes from person to person. Being a close contact to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and then later developing symptoms in that incubation period is enough to consider them epi-linked.”

Of the 32 known cases in Missoula County, 24 have recovered, leaving eight active cases. An additional 155 individuals known to have had close contact with a confirmed case remain in quarantine, Farr said.