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The Gallatin City-County Health Department reported two more deaths related to COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the countywide total since the pandemic began to 45.

A woman in her 80s died in a hospital the week of Dec. 27 and a man in his 60s died in a hospital the week of Nov. 1.

The delay in reporting is due to the time it takes for the health department to receive the official death certificates, which attributed the two deaths to COVID-19.

“The vaccine is being distributed in Gallatin County, but we still ask everyone to help protect our most vulnerable citizens,” said Health Officer Matt Kelley in a news release. “Please continue social distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing face coverings, washing hands and staying home when sick.”

Wednesday’s announcement brings to seven the total number of deaths reported in January.

Gallatin County has seen the number of COVID-19 cases fluctuate in recent weeks.

After the surge that peaked in mid-November, cases declined until late December before climbing once again through early January. In the last two weeks, they have again declined but remain above where they were at the peak of the waves last spring and summer.

“While we’ve built the capacity (to handle more cases), we are doing this at the same time we’re working through our incident command structure to administer vaccines,” Kelley told the Gallatin City-County Health Board last week. “It’s an enormous challenge.”

The positivity rate has also dropped in recent weeks, due in part to a surveillance testing program in Big Sky. Even without the Big Sky testing, the county’s positivity rate dipped below 10% last week. Public health experts say that when the positivity rate exceeds 10% more testing is needed to avoid missing a significant number of cases.

Kelley, however, has urged caution saying the trend could reverse at any time.

As of Tuesday, the seven-day rolling average of new daily cases was 47.

The county had 404 active cases on Tuesday with six hospitalizations. A total of 10,800 residents have recovered from the disease.

The trajectory of COVID-19 cases is similar statewide, with new daily cases and hospitalizations declining in the last two weeks.

The state reported 4,242 active cases with 128 active hospitalizations on Tuesday. A total of 86,733 Montanans have recovered from the disease and 1,185 have died.

By Tuesday, the state had administered 81,157 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine with 15,888 Montanans fully vaccinated.

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