Gallatin County Health Officer Matt Kelley advises against Thanksgiving gatherings

Posted at 11:30 AM, Nov 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-21 13:30:09-05

It’s been two weeks since Gallatin City-County Board of Health issued harsher COVID-19 restrictions, but the number of daily cases continues to climb. As we approach Thanksgiving week, a holiday focused on gathering, health officer Matt Kelley says now is the time to be diligent and warns against traveling or gathering this holiday.

"Right now, the risk of contracting and spreading the disease is as high as it’s ever been in Gallatin County," said Matt Kelley.

With 104 new cases reported on Friday, Gallatin County’s 7-day rolling average is up 5% from last week with a case rate of 140. Out of tests administered within the past week, more than 20 percent are coming back positive, which is four times higher than the rate Gallatin County is targeting.

As cases surge throughout the county, there’s growing concern over testing and the average wait time for results, which is directly impacting schools and hospitals because of staff shortages.

"We’re seeing staffing shortages impacting the hospital and impacting schools, the health department, and other government agencies," added Kelley. "I am concerned that we focus on beds, and doing so we’ve missed that the people behind providing the care that are in those beds are pretty stretched and pretty stressed right now."

Montana State University continues to be a hotbed for cases, with just over 200 new cases reported this week, but the university is seeing their capacity levels ease in quarantine housing as the semester comes to an end.

“Please keep gatherings small," pleaded Kelley. "Think about just having your household people with you. Find ways to be with others virtually. Keep those groups small. Consider those that are most at risk: the elderly, people with underlying health conditions, chronic diseases. Find ways to celebrate with them at a distance. We don’t want these holidays to become a memory, a bad memory, for families.”

Along with Health Officer Matt Kelley, the CDC strongly recommends against any gathering or traveling this Thanksgiving and is urging Americans to celebrate in their own homes instead.

“I think there’s a lot to be thankful of as we head into next week, but there’s going to be even more to be thankful of if we can take care of each other," said Kelley.