West Yellowstone

A view down Canyon Street in West Yellowstone is shown in this March 2017 Chronicle file photo. 

Support Local Journalism


West Yellowstone is gearing up for the possible reopening of the Montana entrances to Yellowstone National Park.

The town and the Gallatin City-County Health Department are looking to increase coronavirus testing locally and to expand treatment capacity at Community Health Partners’ West Yellowstone Medical Clinic, the town’s main health care provider, said county health officer Matt Kelley.

They may also reserve hotel rooms for seasonal workers and visitors who need a place to stay while they await test results or after they have tested positive.

These efforts would likely require sending health department and Bozeman Health staff to West Yellowstone.

It isn’t clear what the work will cost. It depends upon how many tests are needed and how long a COVID-19 outbreak — if there is one — lasts, Kelley said. He estimates the work could cost a few hundred thousand dollars.

West Yellowstone and the health department have looked to the state and federal governments for money to cover the cost of expanding testing and other services, said Patrick Lonergan, Gallatin County chief of emergency management. But state or federal assistance may take months to arrive and testing needs to begin soon.

As a result, West Yellowstone town officials are seeking help from Gallatin County. Lonergan said the town probably can’t front the cost of the additional health services alone.

Gallatin County commissioners said Monday that they would explore ways to help West Yellowstone.

“We have a duty to help our smaller communities and our gateway communities get through this,” said commissioner Don Seifert.

The two Wyoming entrances to Yellowstone National Park opened to visitors on Monday. The Montana entrances in West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cooke City remain closed. Gov. Steve Bullock has said they won’t reopen until at least June 1 to ensure that gateway towns can handle the arrival of visitors and the potential increase in COVID-19 cases.

West Yellowstone is also home to the most recent COVID-19 cases in Gallatin County. Three residents tested positive this month after returning from out-of-state.

“The cases in West (Yellowstone) illustrate part of the concern we have moving into the summer,” Kelley said at a meeting last week. “There is a lot of concern from a public health perspective of bringing in thousands of people into our community — that’s West Yellowstone or Big Sky or Bozeman or Belgrade, where the airport is. ... We’re trying to balance that with the risk of not reopening.”

On Monday, Gallatin County reported no active cases of COVID-19. In the county, 148 people had recovered from COVID-19 and one person had died.

The state reported two new cases on Monday, with a total of 20 active cases. There were 470 cases across the state, with 434 recoveries and 16 deaths.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

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