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Gallatin County now has 16 recorded cases of the novel coronavirus, according to state lab results released Monday. That’s up from 10 the day before.

That’s the largest grouping of known cases in Montana so far, with the state recording 45 diagnoses of the virus called COVID-19 as of Monday. That’s an increase from 34 cases the state had recorded across Montana by Sunday.

Yellowstone County has the next highest load of coronavirus patients, with seven known cases.

Gallatin County officials confirmed the six new local cases Monday afternoon but said no other information would be released at that time.

The increase in cases follows Gallatin County officials announcing over the weekend that four new coronavirus patients in the county likely contracted the illness locally.

State health officials had said last week Montana had been lucky in that so far; most of its cases seem to have traveled into the state. Public health and government officials’ major goal has been to try and make sure the virus doesn’t get enough of a presence here that it spreads from one person to the next within Montana.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued a directive Monday that he said in a state release will help hospitals prepare for a potential surge in new cases.

That directive will temporarily waive state and local authorities’ bidding process to quickly procure or distribute emergency supplies or contract for additional space to care for patients.

It also cuts some administrative hoops for hospitals to transfer certain patients and to discharge patients to recover from home in order to free up more beds and equipment.

“While it’s paramount that Montanans stay vigilant with social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 and avoid burdening our health care system, we must also prepare for a potential surge in critically ill patients and ensure there is hospital space and supplies to respond,” Bullock said in a statement.

Amid the news of rising coronavirus cases, the city of Bozeman announced city hall and the planning department offices will be closed to the public starting Tuesday as officials try to get most city employees working from home.

Interim City Manager Dennis Taylor said essential services like city police, fire, trash pick up and public works will continue. He said that includes building inspections, though the city is still forming guidelines to limit risk to those employees, such as inspectors working alone and wearing protective equipment on the job.

“We’re trying to protect the public and employees while providing essential services,” Taylor said Monday.

Taylor said many city workers can do their job from home. Some who can’t may be sent home on administrative leave with pay, he said.

Any city department canceling services will have to get final approval from Taylor and that will be posted on the city’s website.

Gallatin County Administrator Jim Doar said Monday that county employees with a position that can go remote have been given that option. He said in some cases, that’s a difficult task as people need county equipment for their jobs.

“We’re taking every step that we can to limit public contact, to keep people safe. As of right now, we don’t have any plans to shut down buildings,” Doar said. “...We’re still here, we’re still working and even though public contact is limited, if someone has business they need to conduct at the county, we’re going to find a way to do it.”

The city of Bozeman also announced Monday no one from the public could attend the commission’s weekly meeting that night, which was live streamed on the city’s website and aired on Spectrum channel 199. Those who wanted to give their take on the meeting’s agenda could submit a comment over email or by text.

Taylor said the decision came after the city consulted with the state attorney general’s office. He said city attorneys across Montana are talking this week about how to have open meetings in which people can participate as much of the state goes remote to slow the virus’ spread.

Most of Monday’s meeting was cleared other than items that fell on the commission’s consent agenda, which is typically a list of house-keeping items that commissioners approve in one sweeping vote.

The city is working to set up another platform to host remote meetings as needed, though that wasn’t ready by Monday.

Several commissioners already called into the meeting instead of joining staff in city hall. Taylor said two commissioners, Deputy Mayor Cyndy Andrus and Commissioner Michael Wallner are self-isolating after recently returning from travel, following state guidelines.

The city is also still searching for a new city manager and was due to have candidate in-person interviews in the coming weeks. Taylor said that interview process will now happen remotely.

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Katheryn Houghton can be reached at or at 582-2628.