Younger Montanans are catching and spreading COVID at higher rates

Caty Gondeiro of Helena
Posted at 9:10 AM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 11:22:56-04

HELENA — Governor Steve Bullock is calling on Montanans to "mask up" and practice social distancing to help health officials get a handle on COVID-19.

“We’re still in this together, and each of our actions have a direct result on others,” said Bullock, “no matter if we live in a county with five cases or a county of 500.”

There are nine counties in Montana that public health officials consider hotspots: Flathead, Lake, Missoula, Lewis & Clark, Cascade, Gallatin, Madison, Yellowstone, and Big Horn. Those counties each have 50 or more active cases, and make up around 80% of all Montana reported cases in June and July.

Bullock said during a news conference on Wednesday that while they are testing more across all age groups, they are seeing more and more younger age groups contributing to new COVID-19 cases. “In Gallatin County, three-quarters of the cases come from those under the age of 40,” said Bullock. “Young adults are certainly more likely to socialize in larger group sizes, and we know that large gatherings continue to play a large role in increased cases.”

Caty Gondeiro of Helena, 23 years old, also spoke at the news conference about her recovery from COVID-19, and just how damaging the virus can be, even to a young and healthy individual like her.

“People say you just get the flu and you get over it, and it’s no worse than a bad cold. This is much more serious than that,” explained Gondeiro. “For me being healthy and 23 and having this experience, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in a high risk group.”

Gondeiro says she’s still having health issues weeks after testing positive for the virus. She often finds herself with shortness of breath and has noticed some neurological symptoms as well.

Not only did Caty get coronavirus, she then endured a long three weeks of severe symptoms. She recalled, “I was super, super tired, the chest pressure just started intensifying a lot, feverish, body aches, headaches, the headaches lasted the longest, I still get headaches, but definitely feverish, chills.”

Caty said there was no way for her to know where, when, or even how she contracted coronavirus. She added, “We’re past that point at the level of community spread we are at right now, where I don’t really think it is a matter of pointing fingers, and it was just really kind of disheartening to see how many people were more worried about who could I blame for this.”

After three long weeks, Caty is finally starting to feel better, but she is concerned the virus will have lasting effects: “I am more worried about the long-term effects from this because it has been three weeks and I still get winded walking up and downstairs and doing very simple everyday tasks.”

On Wednesday, Bullock also announced a #MASKUPMONTANA campaign that features public health and healthcare officials from across the state. The videos will showcase personal stories about the importance of taking personal steps like wearing a mask to curb the spread of the virus. The PSAs will begin airing Monday across the state, and will be posted on the DPHHS Youtube channel.

Health officials added 201 new COVID-19 cases to the Montana Response COVID-19 tracking map on Wednesday, July 29th, and three new deaths.

Note: Numbers reported by the state each day occasionally differ from those reported by county public health departments due to periodic lag times in reporting data to the state. The data below is from the official Montana website on July 29:

  • TOTAL CASES & RECOVERIES: There have now been 3,676 cumulative cases statewide, and 2,212 people have recovered from the virus.
  • HOSPITALIZATIONS: There are currently 59 patients hospitalized. There have been 211 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
  • ACTIVE CASES: The state reports there are currently 1,410 active COVID-19 cases in Montana.
  • TESTING: The number of tests increased by 3,947 over the previous 24-hour reporting period, for a new cumulative state-wide total of 165,355.
  • DEATHS: The cumulative number of deaths in Montana is now 54. The new deaths include a man in his 40s in Yellowstone County; two people over the age of 65 in Custer County (the first deaths there); a man in his 50s from Gallatin County; and another death was reported in Lincoln County.