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COVID-19 update for Cascade County (March 29)

Posted at 9:53 AM, Mar 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-29 15:41:21-04

GREAT FALLS — As of Sunday morning (March 29), there are 154 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Montana, and one death. There are no confirmed reports at this time about the number of patients who have recovered. Public health officials know that the number of cases is likely substantially higher than the number of confirmed cases. As of Saturday morning, the public health laboratory in Helena has completed 3,841 tests.

CASCADE COUNTY CASES: There are seven confirmed cases in Cascade County as of Sunday, March 29: two women in their 20s; one man in his 30s; and two women and two men in their 50.

The City-County Health Department said on Friday that the latest Cascade County case is a man in his 50s who tested positive for COVID-19 in another Montana county. Because the patient is a resident of Cascade County, he is classified as a Cascade County case, and Cascade County now appears on the official state map as having seven cases of COVID-19. The CCHD said that the man has not been in Cascade County for several weeks so he could not have acquired the disease here, and has not exposed anyone else here. He will continue to be isolated in the county where he tested positive. No other information has been released.

Many people have asked KRTV why so little information is being released about COVID-19 patients. Trisha Gardner, the health officer for the City-County Health Department in Great Falls, told KRTV on Friday that federal privacy laws such as HIPAA prevent them from disclosing where they live, locations they've visited, and other details.

Gardner said that if you are identified as a potential contact of any confirmed cases, or if they learn you could have been exposed, a public health nurse will contact you and let you know what to do. Most of the time, close contacts are identified and contacted within hours. If you have any specific reason to think you have been infected, call the CCHD at 406-454-6950 or visit the website. The CCHD says that all patients identified as "Cascade County" cases are self-isolating and taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

You can call one of the following healthcare organizations in Great Falls with questions or concerns about COVID-19:

  • Alluvion - 454-6973 (M-F 7am-6pm; Sat/Sun 8am-3pm)
  • Benefis - 455-2500 (7 days a week, 7am-7pm)
  • Great Falls Clinic - 454-7275

"STAY AT HOME" GUIDANCE IN CASCADE COUNTY: Law enforcement officials in Great Falls said in a news conference on Friday afternoon that they strongly encourage residents to follow Bullock's order and stay in their homes, unless there is a critical need to leave the residence. They made it clear, however, that people can leave their homes to get groceries, buy food from a restaurant, go to medical appointments, provide care for others, and other activities that are deemed essential. They can also drive around and enjoy the outdoors, but officials stressed that maintaining a "social distance" of at least six feet from other people is critical.

They explained what the governor's order meant in terms of law enforcement actions. They said that travel throughout Great Falls and Cascade County is not restricted, and officers will not be stopping people simply to make them justify their travel. Law enforcement officers will continue to conduct proactive patrols, respond to calls for assistance, and make traffic stops when appropriate.

Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter posted on Facebook on Saturday morning to address some concerns - here is an excerpt: "We will not be unlawfully stopping citizens and asking them where they are going OR for proof that their travel is essential. The county is not closed and people can travel outside of Cascade county and the state for that matter. The order from the governor asks that out of county travel be essential travel only. We are not the social distancing police, so you won’t be contacted or arrested for standing too close to each other. All of the protections under both the U.S. and Montana Constitutions still apply. America is still the land of the free."

FIRST DEATH: Lincoln County resident Jim Tomlin has been reported as the first COVID-19 death in Montana. Tomlin was 77 years old and lived south of Troy; click here to read more, and hear from his son.

STATE SUMMARY: Here are the counties with the most confirmed cases in Montana: Gallatin 58; Yellowstone 26; Missoula 11; Lewis & Clark 10; Butte-Silver Bow 9; Cascade 7; Flathead 7; Toole 5; Madison 4; Broadwater 3; Lincoln 3.

Officials in Montana are keeping a list of confirmed cases in the Treasure State on an updated map and website - click here to visit the site. There have now been eight hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Montana.

The DPHHS public health lab in Helena has completed more than 3,841 tests for COVID-19. Officials know that the number of actual cases is undoubtedly much higher, and are continuing to test in accordance with CDC guidelines. The "recovery rate" for Montana has not yet been determined, as COVID-19 is still relatively new in our state and there is not enough data to calculate an accurate rate at this point.

  • NOTE: Some confirmed cases are being re-assigned to other counties - for instance, a Glacier County case was re-assigned to Toole County, because the patient was tested and treated in Glacier County (Cut Bank), but actually lives in Toole County. That has happened in several cases. We know that it can be confusing - we are trying to keep things as accurate as possible as the situation changes.

"STAY HOME" ORDER: Governor Steve Bullock on Thursday afternoon issued a directive requiring Montanans to stay home and temporarily closes all nonessential businesses and operations as efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) continue. The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, March 28. Click here for complete details.

The order will be in effect through Friday, April 10, and requires all businesses and operations in Montana, except for essential businesses and operations as defined in the directive, to stop all activities within the state. The Directive also prohibits all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a household or place of residence. The order does not prohibit restaurants from continuing to offer take-out, curb-side, and delivery service. Click here for a list of Great Falls restaurants offering such service.

Employees who are not sure if they are considered essential should talk with their manager/business owner. Business owners with questions can call at 1-800-755-6672 and leave messages 24-hours a day and will receive a prompt response, according to Bullock. *CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL TEXT OF THE DIRECTIVE*