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Travel is believed to be link to outbreak in Ravalli County

| May 20, 2020 12:15 PM

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — Health officers in a western Montana county are investigating a cluster of COVID-19 cases as the state prepares to lift more restrictions meant to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The initial Ravalli County case involved a man in his 50′s who was believed to have caught the virus while traveling outside the county. He was hospitalized on Sunday, said Karyn Johnston, director of public health.

Nine more people were tested because of contact with the man and seven of them have tested positive for COVID-19. All are male and are isolated at home. Two are in their 60′s, two are in their 20′s and three are between the ages of 10 and 19, the state health department reported.

Public health officials have placed more than 30 identified contacts in quarantine, Johnston said, and the investigation continues. Health officials did not immediately return a phone call on Wednesday seeking to learn if the contacts were being tested, as well.

The seven new cases identified in tests run on Tuesday were the most in one day in Montana in just over a month. Seven cases were reported on April 18.

Montana has 478 cases of coronavirus, with 22 known active cases, including the eight in Ravalli County. Three people remain hospitalized, 16 have died and 440 people have recovered from the respiratory virus.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock on Tuesday announced the state would enter a second phase of reopening on June 1, including lifting a 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors and allowing more people into bars and restaurants.

For most people, the new 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.