HELENA — Montana has seen a sizable increase in average daily COVID cases since July, with more than 270 new cases in two out of the last four days.
“From mid-July to early September, our weekly number of cases stabilized. Unfortunately, that stability was at about 800 per week. So just over the two months we were stable, Montana added about 70 percent of the 10,000 cases that we’ve experienced,” said Communicable Disease Control and Prevention bureau chief Jim Murphy.
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Social distancing and masking up has been a unified message by state and county officials for months, yet cases have continued to rise.
The White House guidance to Montana this week encourages fining individuals not following mask guidelines in high COVID positive areas.
Gov. Bullock told reporters he will not be implementing an action like that.
“We’re all tired of having this virus around. We’ll continue to listen to public health experts, but we solve this not by having government regulation alone. We solve it by recognizing that we want to keep our schools and businesses open,” said Gov. Bullock.
“I’ve talked top business owners across the state that weren’t shut down because of our stay at home order, they were shut down because they ended up with positive cases in their workforce," he added.
Gov. Bullock says ultimately it’s on all of us to limit community transmission in order to ensure businesses can stay open, schools can remain in session and our most vulnerable are less likely to catch the disease.
The State has attributed a lot of the recent cases to congregate settings, like schools, jails and nursing homes.
There was a 90% increase in COVID cases between the week ending Sept. 4 and the week ending on Sept. 18 for individuals under the age of 19.
State officials also cited Labor Day activities and social distancing fatigue as significant contributing factors for many cases.
“We’re seeing connections to certain social events… whether it be parties or gatherings with families or going to bars, ” explained Lead Communicable Disease Epidemiologist Stacey Anderson. “To date can we say that 40% of our COVID are attributed to the age group of 20-39 years-old.”
State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman said the increase in number is a troubling trend that will only bring more suffering to Montana families unless more people begin following COVID-19 guidelines like wearing a mask and limiting social gatherings.
“When disease rates rise we see more suffering, we see more death we see schools that have to close down," said Dr. Holzman. "Not necessarily because of a health mandate, but because we don’t have teachers or students to learn. We can see businesses suffer as people are concerned about going out and acquiring the virus.”
He also addressed critics who say the virus isn’t as bad as the medical community is making it out to be.
“While we can state that those with underlying conditions are at higher risk to have a poorer outcome, we cannot state how one individual will respond to getting this virus,” said Dr. Holzman.
“I can tell you that in the United States well over 200,000 excess deaths. Deaths that are more than we have seen in past years for the same time period. Those excess deaths started in February,” he explained.
State numbers showed an additional 275 confirmed COVID-19 cases were being reported on Tuesday morning in Montana.
The number of new cases reported Tuesday is the second-highest single-day reported. The highest single-day number of new cases was reached on Sept. 18 when 293 cases were reported.
(first report: 9:25 a.m. - Sept. 22, 2020)
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock held a Tuesday morning press briefing to provide an update on the COVID-19 situation in Montana.
Gov. Bullock was joined by Greg Holzman, State Medical Officer, Jim Murphy, Bureau Chief of the Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau, and Stacey Anderson, Lead Communicable Disease Epidemiologist.
Montana has recently seen cases of COVID-19 increase, with a new single-day record high set on Saturday with 293 new cases. An additional 275 cases were reported by state officials on Tuesday morning.