Montana reports 2 new virus deaths in assisted care facility
HELENA (AP) — Two more people have died as a result of a coronavirus outbreak at a memory care facility in Billings, bringing the number of deaths associated with the facility to five, Yellowstone County health officials said.
The new deaths were announced Friday, as the state reported a single-day record of 127 confirmed virus cases, the third time the state set a record this week.
A man in his 90s died Thursday in a Yellowstone County hospital while a man in his 80s died at the Canyon Creek Memory Care facility. Both men were residents of the facility, which has reported 66 cases of the virus, including 45 among residents.
“We share in the grief of each family member and friend that has lost a loved one to COVID-19 related disease. We must never forget that each person who passes is more than a number; they were somebody’s father, mother, sister, uncle or husband,” John Felton, Yellowstone County Health Officer and RiverStone Health President, said in a statement.
Gov. Steve Bullock said earlier this week that the Canyon Creek Memory Care facility was one of several dozen assisted care facilities that declined to participate in so-called sentinel testing it was offered by the state at no cost last month. Montana is now requiring assisted living and long-term care facilities to test their residents and staff if they want to allow outside visitors.
Friday’s cases raised the state’s total known coronavirus cases to 1,593, including 465 in the past week. Twenty-one people are hospitalized and 28 have died. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
The Montana Hospital Association announced Friday that it would partner with the Montana Department of Commerce to deliver 45,000 free cloth face coverings to 25 communities, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
“If we want to keep our economy open and ensure our state’s healthcare system has the capacity to treat all patients who need medical care, we need to mask up,” Rich Rasmussen, president and chief executive officer for the Montana Hospital Association, said in a statement. “Until we have a vaccine, wearing a mask is one of the most simple and effective things we can do to keep the virus from shutting down our state.”
Bullock hasn’t issued a statewide face covering mandate, but some cities and counties have implemented requirements to wear masks in public.