Library Masks

Carolyn Pinet wears a mask as she browses through books at the Bozeman Public Library on Friday. Pinet, who was visiting with her granddaughter Naomi, 9, said the two were happy to have access to the library again. “We missed it,” Pinet said. “She especially.”

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Montana counted 137 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Friday. Gallatin County added 10 cases.

Gallatin County’s total of 561 cases includes 32 patients who are not residents of the county but tested positive and are recovering here. The county has 121 active cases, two active hospitalizations and one death, according to the Gallatin City-County Health Department.

The two new COVID-19 deaths counted Friday bring the total to 37. Gov. Steve Bullock sent out a news release saying one of the deaths was in Lewis and Clark County. The other was tied to an outbreak at Canyon Creek Memory Care in Billings. So far, 10 residents have died.

“It’s clear this virus is incredibly dangerous to older Montanans, and we must commit ourselves to continue fighting this virus to protect our high-risk family members and neighbors,” Bullock said in the statement.

In Montana, 45 patients are hospitalized.

Public health officials have said that health care providers are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 due to being exposed to patients who need long-term care, are hospitalized or come in for treatment.

More than 35 staff at Canyon Creek Memory Care have tested positive.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services announced Friday in a news release that a Montana State Hospital employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The hospital in Warm Springs offers inpatient psychiatric treatment for adults experiencing serious mental illness.

According to the release, the employee who tested positive didn’t give direct care to patients, but did have limited contact with patients and other staff. The person is believed to have contracted the virus through a family member and is in quarantine.

Sheila Hogan, DPHHS director, said the department is monitoring the situation closely and will work to prevent further spread.

“We have been working diligently to implement additional infectious disease control measures for the past several months to protect the health and safety of patients and staff,” Hogan said.

The news release said that the hospital is participating in the state’s asymptomatic testing program, and that 50% of its staff and patients have been tested with all results coming back negative.

However, Gov. Steve Bullock announced this week that Quest Diagnostics, the private lab that processes the swabs taken during asymptomatic testing events, will not be able to take new tests for at least two weeks.

Bozeman Health confirmed to the Chronicle this week that since the pandemic began, 15 of its employees have tested positive for the virus. Bozeman Health announced in March when its first employee had tested positive for the virus, but had not announced the others. Bozeman Health declined to say when in the last three months each of the 15 employees tested positive.

The health care system that operates multiple clinics in Gallatin County and the hospital in Bozeman would not identify which departments the employees work in or where they work. Bozeman Health also declined to disclose the employees’ condition, how many people were in close contact with the confirmed cases or if other cases have been tied to these employees.

Lauren Brendel, Bozeman Health spokesperson, said there’s no evidence that the employees contracted the virus at work. Brendel said there are stringent protocols in place to protect staff and patients to keep them safe, including symptom and temperature screenings at every entrance, requiring face coverings and having employees self-monitor for symptoms twice per day.

Brendel said it is safe for people to get care at Bozeman Health facilities. Those with COVID-19 symptoms can visit Bozeman Health’s Viral Triage Clinics in Belgrade, Big Sky and Bozeman.

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