HELENA, Mont. — Montana reported another 49 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 20 in Missoula County, as health officials urged people to wear face coverings when social distancing isn’t practical.
The new cases confirmed from among more than 2,000 tests run Monday bring the state’s total known cases to 967, including 303 people who are currently known to be infected. Twelve people are hospitalized, and 22 people have died. The state has confirmed 225 cases of COVID-19 from June 23-29.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
On Monday, Missoula County had 45 people infected with more than 250 close contacts that health officials are monitoring for signs of the respiratory virus. Because of the high volume of cases and close contacts discovered over the past week, the county testing clinic is prioritizing the testing of symptomatic cases and their close contacts, health officer Ellen Leahy said Monday.
Eleven of the cases reported Tuesday are in Gallatin County, where health officials recently issued warnings to four downtown bars for overcrowding and not maintaining social distancing among customers, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
The recent growth in the number of cases in Yellowstone County is largely driven by group gatherings among family and friends, RiverStone Health said.
“This Independence Day weekend, we must be especially vigilant to prevent happy holiday celebrations from turning into tragedies,” county health officer John Felton said Tuesday.
State and local health officials issued a statement Tuesday urging people to wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“Let’s make wearing a face covering the norm in Montana, so when visitors come to our state, they know this is the norm around here and they should follow suit,” the statement said.