COVID-19 cases spike on Thursday; Missoula firefighter, child under 9 now among infected

The number of COVID-19 cases in Montana topped more than 800 on Thursday and health officials in Missoula are tracing a growing number of contacts and new cases.

In Missoula, the virus has now infected a child under the age of 9 and has found its way into the city’s emergency services system.

City officials confirmed this week that a firefighter with the Missoula Fire Department tested positive for the virus and a number of other emergency responders are now in quarantine.

The positive case was identified on Monday, though health officials rarely disclose information about a patient for privacy reasons. The city said close contacts to the firefighter have been identified and include coworkers, law enforcement officers and ambulance personnel.

“City fire has responded quickly and thoroughly and knowledgeably,” said Cindy Farr, the incident commander for the pandemic response. “They have been involved at the high level in Incident Command since March, and they are very knowledgeable.”

Chief Brandt does not believe there is an exposure risk for members of the public. He said firefighters wear protective gear on calls, adding that other firefighters are working to cover shifts.

He said the fire department’s customary level of service will not be affected.

“We’re doing everything we need to do, and even a little bit more,” Brandt said.

Montana reported 23 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday morning, including five new cases in Missoula, marking the city’s largest single-day count since early in the pandemic.

That was followed by another 37 cases announced Thursday morning, including four more in Missoula. The four new Missoula patients included a boy under the age of 9, a woman over 60, a female in her 40s and man in his 20s.

The total number of cases in Montana now stands at 803, including 58 in Missoula. Nearly 20 cases in Missoula are currently active.

Farr said the virus remains in Missoula and is showing signs of community spread.