Montana marks another COVID death as cases climb; Missoula opens new test site

Missoula health officials on Monday were tracking 57 active cases of COVID-19 and confirmed 13 new cases over the weekend, bringing the county’s running tally to 212.

Statewide, more than 3,380 cases have been confirmed since March and 1,244 cases remain active, with 483 of them in Yellowstone County. State health officials also announced the death of another patient – again in Yellowstone County – marking the fifth fatality in three days.

To date, 47 people have died in Montana.

“Today we learned that another Montanan has sadly passed due to COVID-19. This virus is incredibly dangerous, especially for older Montanans,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement. “I send my condolences to this Montanan’s family, friends, and community. And I call on all of us to remain diligent when it comes to protective measures like masking up and social distancing.”

Cindy Farr, incident commander for Missoula, said the county’s 57 active cases include 240 close contacts. Four people are currently being hospitalized in Missoula County for the virus.

Fifty of the state’s 56 counties have reported cases, Farr said, meaning 89% of Montana has been impacted by the virus.

“Most of the state has been affected by the virus directly or indirectly, and its reach is far and wide,” said Farr.

Missoula County commissioners last week approved a lease to move the current testing site at the fairgrounds to a new facility off Flynn Lane. The new site held a soft opening on Monday, sooner than the August 1 target date.

The county is currently not testing asymptomatic patients, Farr said.

“It’s been a pause since late June when information indicated we needed to put a hold on it to respond to the high demand for testing for the people feeling sick and close contact to active cases,” Farr said. “We’ll continue keeping an eye on the data and we’ll resume sentinel testing if and when our healthcare hub can handle the expanded services.”