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Gallatin County continues to see a decline in COVID-19 cases.

This week, the county’s seven-day rolling average of new daily cases dropped to 30.5 per 100,000 residents, the lowest level in weeks but still higher than the Harvard Global Health Institute’s threshold for uncontrolled spread of 25 cases per 100,000.

The county’s positivity rate remained at 5% for the second consecutive week. The relatively low rate is due, in part, to a surveillance testing program in Big Sky, which has been providing tests to asymptomatic people for weeks. Even without the Big Sky data, the positivity rate was 8%, indicating the county is doing enough testing to track the spread of the disease.

Test results continue to be reported within a few days, and contact tracers have generally been able to follow up with new cases within a day or two, said Health Officer Matt Kelley in a press call on Friday.

Hospitalizations have remained in the single-digits for weeks, easing the strain on Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital and Big Sky Medical Center.

While Montana State University and K-12 schools are still seeing some cases, the levels are similar to the broader county, Kelley said.

However, even as some measures improve, Gallatin County continues to report new COVID-19 deaths.

On Friday, the health department announced that three more residents have died from complications related to COVID-19, bringing the countywide total to 51, according to a news release. The deaths occurred in the final weeks of January but were only reported Friday after the health department received the official death certificates.

In part because of the improving situation, the Gallatin City-County Health Board voted Thursday to allow businesses to stay open until 2 a.m. Kelley said he’s encouraged that other restrictions will remain, including a capacity limit of 50%. He added that the board is prepared to reverse course if cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise.

“The board knows this pandemic is not over and they may need to revisit this rule. They hope they don’t have to,” Kelley said. “… They did it once. We defended it in court once, and we’ll do it again if we need to.”

As COVID-19 cases decline, the health department is also working with Bozeman Health, Montana State University and Community Health Partners to administer vaccines.

This week, Bozeman Health held vaccine clinics in Bozeman and Big Sky, and Community Health Partners hosted one in West Yellowstone.

On Saturday, MSU plans to give 820 students, faculty and staff a first dose of the vaccine, said spokesperson Tracy Ellig.

Next week, the health department will hold a vaccine clinic for patients of health care organizations not affiliated with Bozeman Health and for some members of the public to receive their first dose of a vaccine.

The health department opened an online sign up for next week’s clinic at noon on Friday that filled within six minutes. So many people tried to access the health department website simultaneously that it crashed.

“I want to acknowledge the large number of people who are not yet able to (get vaccinated) and are trying to do that and how frustrating that can be,” Kelley said. “…I want people to know that we understand people are really anxious to get the vaccine. The fundamental problem we have right now is we just don’t have enough of the vaccine.”

Statewide, 35,515 Montanans have been fully vaccinated and 59,809 have received one of the two required doses.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.