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Big Horn Co. contact tracing connects COVID-19 cases to Yellowstone Co.

Posted at 10:45 AM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 14:07:51-04

BILLINGS — Contact tracing has helped Montana health officials connect clusters of COVID-19 cases, including in Big Horn and Yellowstone counties, Gov. Steve Bullock said Wednesday at the Capitol in Helena.

Gov. Bullock said while Montana has seen a recent increase in cases, the state has the third-lowest per capita in the country.

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He also said it's important to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Learning more about the virus and how it interacts in our communities is certainly critical as we move forward in navigating these times," Gov. Bullock said. "And it's also important to underscore that even if a community or a county is free of the virus today, this does not mean that Montanans can let their guard down."

A Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau diagram shows that positive Cases in Big Horn County led to finding positive cases in Yellowstone County.

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"Right now the recommendation is to test all close contacts and if you test positive," said Jim Murphy, the communicable disease bureau chief. "Then you become a case and you get isolated. If you don't test positive, you're going to be a close contact, and you're going to be asked to quarantine."

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"Some of these cases had additional contacts who became cases in Yellowstone County," said Stacy Anderson, the bureau's lead epidemiologist. "Some of that was through necessary events like medical appointments. And some of those medical appointments were conducted by having folks travel in a group together to these appointments. So this is one of the areas that we discovered is where we can maybe prevent things from happening in future clusters."

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Another investigation in Custer County is showing the possibility of contacts in four other counties.