Montana COVID cases increase, 1 county boosts restrictions
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Nine new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Montana between Saturday and Monday, increasing the state’s total count to 548, the state health department said.
The state reported one new case of COVID-19 on Saturday, five new cases on Sunday, and three new cases on Monday. Three were reported in Big Horn county, three in Gallatin county, two in Yellowstone County, and one in Stillwater County.
Big Horn County health officials announced a new order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that is more restrictive than the state directive after the county reported its first death on Friday, bringing the state’s death count to 18.
Employees at all Big Horn County businesses must now have their temperature checked before starting work. People with temperatures over 100 degrees (37.8 Celsius) are not allowed to work.
Dine-in establishments in the county are now limited to 50% capacity, while establishments in other parts of the state are permitted to operate at 75% capacity. Big Horn restaurants, convenience stores, bars and lodging must require employees to wear cloth masks.
The new measures in Big Horn County are more restrictive than the statewide directive, and come as Montana marks a week since Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock announced the beginning of the second phase of reopening.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
The rise in Montana’s case count came as health officials nationwide warned that protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd could lead to additional COVID-19 outbreaks.
Thousands of Montana residents attended demonstrations over the weekend commemorating Floyd, the unarmed black man killed in police custody in Minneapolis.
The largest demonstration took place in Billings, where protesters gathered Sunday afternoon at the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn, The Billings Gazette reported.
In Kalispell, more than 1,000 protesters attended a demonstration on Saturday, the Flathead Beacon reported. In Missoula, hundreds gathered Friday evening, the largest gathering in the city after a week of protests, the Missoulian reported.
Some people showed up to the protests armed, telling reporters they attended the demonstrations in order to prevent unrest and protect other protesters.
Many protesters in Billings wore face masks in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Gazette reported.