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Montana coronavirus cases decline amid retail re-openings

| May 11, 2020 3:07 PM

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The rate at which Montanans are diagnosed with COVID-19 continues to decline as the state begins its third week in which retailers have been able to reopen and the second week that bars and restaurants could offer dine-in options with limited capacity.

There were two positive tests results from Saturday through Monday, the state health department said. The state reported five positive tests in the last week, compared to six during the previous seven days. Three weeks ago, Montana had 14 positive tests in seven days.

Two of the new cases announced last week involved members of a family from West Yellowstone who were believed to have been infected while traveling out of state. Gallatin County health officer Matt Kelley said it seemed like they laid low after becoming symptomatic, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

“We think we avoided massive exposure there,” Kelly said Friday. The county will continue to monitor the situation.

One of the new cases reported over the weekend involved a Gallatin County girl who is 9 or younger. On Monday the state said a Jefferson County man in his 50's tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Officials say Montana has 459 people who tested positive for COVID-19, four people remain hospitalized, and 16 people have died. The state has 20 known active cases, including seven in Toole County, where an outbreak tied to a nursing home is believed to be contained, state health officials said.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced Monday that the state had received 19,500 swabs and transport medium for 9,000 tests as it looks to ramp up COVID-19 testing in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and on reservations.

Last week, state health officials worked with nursing homes and assisted living facilities on the logistics for testing that it hopes to schedule over the next several weeks, the governor's office said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. 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.

In other coronavirus-related developments:

— Insurance companies have notified the state auditor's office they will be refunding at least $20.7 million to residents, with most of the savings coming from personal auto policies because vehicle travel has declined with stay-at-home orders. Auditor Matt Rosendale said dozens of insurers have notified his office they will be providing refunds, premium relief, premium credits and other savings on 500,000 policies. Some savings are also coming from other types of policies including commercial auto, homeowners, liability and medical malpractice.