Support Local Journalism


Montana and Gallatin County again set records in the last two days for the largest single day increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Gallatin County added 31 cases on Thursday, a new record, and 26 new cases on Friday, according to the health department. The county now counts 405 total cases, with 81 active. There is one active hospitalization.

Matt Kelley, health officer for Gallatin County, said the new local cases are not clustered in one area, nor the result of a major testing event in Big Sky last week.

“We are seeing widespread transmission across the county right now,” Kelley said.

Cases are cropping up in West Yellowstone, Big Sky and all over Gallatin Valley. Kelley said analysis of wastewater has shown indications of more disease in Three Forks, something the health department will keep an eye on. Similar results from wastewater analysis in Big Sky preceded a cluster of cases that emerged there.

Kelley said he’s very concerned about the recent surge in cases.

“We are back to where we were, if not worse, in March and April,” Kelley said.

Statewide, Montana added 127 new cases Friday, totaling 1,593. Of those, 710 are active. The state also counted three more deaths to bring that total to 29. It was the third day this week the state set a record for most cases confirmed on a single day.

Of Gallatin County’s 405 overall cases, 28 are people who were diagnosed and are recovering in the county, but are not county residents, according to state data. The nonresident data is published separately from the main state COVID-19 map due to federal government guidelines on reporting. This, along with differing deadlines for reporting new cases, has led to a discrepancy between the case numbers published by the state and county.

Montana is one of the states seeing a sharp rise in new cases, according to data from the New York Times. Montana is also one of 12 states, according to the Times, that hit its testing target last week.

The state aims to test 60,000 people per month, or 15,000 per week. It has yet to hit the 60,000 per month goal, but for the first time last week, more than 15,000 people were tested in one week.

Gov. Steve Bullock said on Twitter Friday that he is deeply concerned about the daily highs in new cases, and that “if this trend continues, I will seriously consider reimplementing some public health restrictions.” He said new cases are avoidable if people follow public health advice, like wearing a mask and steering clear of crowds.

Bullock announced earlier this week a new rule requiring long-term care facilities to participate in surveillance testing, or testing of asymptomatic people, in order to allow visitors. The rule was in response to a massive COVID-19 outbreak at Canyon Creek Memory Care in Billings.

So far, three residents there have died.

While the state has allowed long-term care facilities to open to visitors, Gallatin County still prohibits visitation at these places. Kelley said besides allowing visitors, what’s also risky is that employees who interact with others in the community may carry the virus with them to work. Kelley said surveillance testing makes sense among this population of people.

A large number of Bozeman’s COVID-19 patients, 130 of them, are people in their 20s.

Kelley said there seems to be a correlation between the decrease in median age of confirmed patients and the increase in the number of people who are close contacts of a patient. Kelley said contact tracing has begun to take more time and is more complex, and that may require staff to revise how they do the work.

Kelley has said since the beginning of the pandemic that most people want to do the right thing and follow isolation requirements when they test positive. However, he said some have not been compliant, especially among those who have mild symptoms.

Kelley said it’s difficult to ask people to stay in isolation, but it’s essential to combating COVID-19.

“It’s the best way that we have to limit spread,” Kelley said.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

Shaylee Ragar can be reached at or at 582-2607.

Recommended for you