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Gallatin County health officials said Thursday that new cases here indicate community spread of the coronavirus, but that it isn’t cause to reverse course on reopening.

Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley said there is strong indication that the county is experiencing greater level of disease and spreading. That means the valley is once again seeing community transmission, which Kelley said isn’t surprising as businesses begin to reopen and people come together.

“It is reasonable to expect this trend to continue as Yellowstone National Park opens and more people come to the county from all over the nation,” he said.

However, Kelley said, the health department’s focus is on identifying cases, close contacts to those cases and limiting the spread of the virus. He said there are no discussions on reversing the reopening of businesses.

“We’re not there yet,” Kelley said. “We have a lot of fight left in us before we start closing.”

Kelley gave the update at a news conference streamed on Facebook after the county added six new cases on Thursday and two on Wednesday. There are now 163 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Gallatin County. Of those, 11 are active. One person in the county has died from the illness.

The new cases in Gallatin County consisted of two men and two women in their 30s; one man and one woman in their 20s; a man in his 60s; and a woman in her 80s.

During the news conference, Kelley said the health department knows no specific locations where it saw multiple cases that caused immediate concern. Those who tested positive, he said, were in various parts of the valley. He also said there was no sign they contracted the virus while traveling out of state.

Kelley said wastewater sampling from May 28 and Monday detected “measurable presence of viral load” in West Yellowstone. Five of the 14 people who recently tested positive in the county were from there.

“The wastewater testing does not let us know how many people are carrying the virus, but it does establish an important baseline from which to measure results later this summer and fall,” Kelley said.

In a press call on Thursday, Gov. Steve Bullock said the new cases in Gallatin County underscored the continued need for testing. He said the state was asking health departments to undertake automatic testing of those who come in contact with people who were infected.

“As a result, we will be able to find more cases,” Bullock said.

He also announced the state is making available reimbursements to local governments for COVID-19 related expenses through a FEMA public assistance grant. That includes medical expenses, public health expenses or covering pay for employees’ regular and overtime hours.

Yellowstone National Park said in a Thursday news release that 43 employees tested negative for COVID-19 on May 28 and 29. The park said those employees have been interacting with visitors since the park opened its Wyoming entrances on May 18.

The park said it would continue surveillance testing through the summer and would target concession and park service employees who are dealing with visitors.

Superintendent Cam Sholly said in the release that this is the most aggressive testing for employees in the National Park Service.

“Information gained from this program will inform management decisions,” he said.

This story has been updated to reflect that wastewater testing in West Yellowstone corresponded with new cases there.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at or at 406-582-2630.