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The Gallatin County health officer said Friday his department is seeing signs that social distancing is working to slow the spread of the coronavirus and that the health care system here is in good shape to serve the area’s needs.

Matt Kelley, health officer for the Gallatin City-County Health Department, said while it’s too early to draw any conclusions, “We are seeing evidence that social distancing is working. Now is not the time to let up.”

He said people should continue to adhere to Gov. Steve Bullock’s stay-at-home order and only go out for necessary things like groceries or medicine to try to prevent further spreading of COVID-19. Kelley said people can go for walks and get outside if they feel up to it, but they should continue to practice social distancing.

“We all need to do what we can to avoid spreading this illness,” he said.

Kelley, who fielded questions during a livestreamed broadcast, also announced that one of two patients recently hospitalized for the coronavirus in Gallatin County has been released. Eight new patients tested positive for the virus Friday, bringing the county’s total to 101, by far the most in the state.

During the virtual press conference, Kelley said Bozeman Health reports that it is in good shape and has the capacity to serve the needs of the area.

“Roughly 900 people from Gallatin County have been tested through the state public health lab in Helena,” he said. “And our health care system continues to plan and prepare for additional cases in the weeks ahead.”

Kelley said it’s important that people with diabetes, heart conditions or other illnesses, whether related to COVID-19 or not, understand they can reach out to their health care providers. The care for those people might be in the form or a phone call or videoconference, but he said it’s important those people take care of themselves.

“It is important that we protect our health care system, but the whole point of that is to protect it for people who need it,” Kelley said. “And if you need it, you should use it.”

Kelley said the county is working through the state and federal governments and other supply chains to get as much personal protective equipment for health care workers as possible. So far, those supplies are “not at a point of crisis.”

“I think we’re doing OK right now, but we’re also being really careful with the way that equipment is being used because we don’t know what the weeks ahead are going to look like,” Kelley said.

As for people using face coverings, he said, follow the advice for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, he asked that people be aware that gear doesn’t provide immunity and not to wear medical-grade face coverings because “we need those for people on the front lines in the health care settings.”

“We can’t have the general public using up all of our medical-grade PPE,” Kelley said. “And we really need them to — even if they are wearing a face covering — continue to be cautious, continue that social distancing and continue to stay at home whenever they can.”

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Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.