Cascade County adds 59 COVID-19 cases today; active total now 337

Cascade County added 59 new COVID-19 cases on Sept. 22, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services map.

That’s the highest single day increase since Sept. 3, when the county added 58 cases.

The county’s total is now 603 cases and of those, 337 are active.

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That’s an increase of nearly 100 active cases since Sept. 18. 

The Cascade County City-County Health Department said that as of Sept. 21, there are nine new cases related to Great Falls Public Schools. Those cases include two males ages 0-9; four females aged 10-19 and three males aged 10-19.

As of Sept. 22, there were 18 active cases associated with GFPS, according to CCHD. Two of those cases were new Tuesday, but CCHD did not specify their gender or age bracket on Tuesday afternoon, but did say they are both students.

GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore told The Electric that there are more than 100 people from C.M. Russell High School in quarantine and more than 200 at Great Falls High School, including athletes at both high schools, with about 130 returning to school this week.

Moore said he has not been contacted by local infectious disease doctors asking him to consider closing schools, but that he has been talking to medical professionals in the community over the last week regarding the uptick in positive cases and their ability to handle the situation.

He said that he has asked the county health officer to confer with him when community spread reaches a point that she is concerned about public health and safety in schools.

“When that happens, I will spin up a task force group to consider the data and they will recommend to me that we close a school or schools. This happened a week ago Sunday at Great Falls High School when we could not handle the number of COVID-19 positive cases, contact tracing and sanitation, so we consulted and closed the school for two days to try to manage the situation,” Moore said in an email to The Electric.

Moore said that there are about 35 students waiting to get into the remote learning program since school started and most of them are still in face-to-face classes.

“We are exploring different options with our teachers this week to try some hybrid teaching models to support more students in partial online schedules to minimize their time in classrooms face-to-face,” Moore said of those wanting to switch to online given the increase in COVID-19 cases in schools and the community. “We hired over 10 additional teachers in the high school for the expected demand for remote learning in August. We moved some classroom teachers to remote learning as well. Once school started and students had their schedules, we don’t have the additional staff to just add more teachers to remote learning on a time, and not a pool of qualified teacher candidates waiting in the wings.”

CCHD officials told The Election on Sept. 22 that about a third of the new cases are from the Cascade County Adult Detention Center and some are tied to GFPS.

Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said in a Sept. 22 release that there are currently 68 positive cases at the detention center. Of those, 41 are on the county jail side and 27 are on the state prison side of the facility.

Slaughter said that 103 inmates have recovered, all in the county jail.

As of Sept. 22, there have been 17 detention officers who have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 15 have recovered and returned to work, Slaughter said.

The City of Great Falls has one active case in the Civic Center. City Manager Greg Doyon said that the city’s IT office is closed and employees are working remotely.

Doyon said that 12 city employees are currently quarantined.

Earlier this month, Doyon told The Electric that there had been three confirmed cases among city employees.

CCHD said they expected some of the bump in cases since it’s about two weeks since the Labor Day holiday and also told The Electric that they’ve received many reports of people with mild illness going to work, school or social gatherings.

“Please, send people home if they are sick and do not realize on their own that they should self-isolate. Now is not the time to be complacent—let’s work together to keep our schools, businesses, and community functioning smoothly. Stay home, wash your hands, wear a mask, disinfect surfaces,” CCHD posted Tuesday afternoon.

The new cases for Sept. 22 are:

  • 1 female 0-9
  • 1 male 0-9
  • 4 females 10-19
  • 4 males 10-19
  • 3 females 20-29
  • 10 males 20-29
  • 1 females 30-39
  • 11 males 30-39
  • 1 female 40-49
  • 14 males 40-49
  • 1 female 50-59
  • 3 males 50-59
  • 2 females 60-69
  • 1 male 60-69
  • 1 female 70-79
  • 1 male 70-79

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The county had 18 new cases on Sept. 21 and those were:

  • 2 males age 0-9
  • 3 females age 10-19
  • 1 male age 10-19
  • 2 males age 20-29
  • 2 females age 30-39
  • 3 males age 30-39
  • 1 female age 40-49
  • 1 female age 50-59
  • 1 female age 60-69
  • 1 male age 60-69
  • 1 male age 80-89

There were 22 new cases Sept. 19 and four on Sept. 20. Combined, those were:

  • 1 female age 10-19
  • 2 males age 10-19
  • 5 females age 20-29
  • 4 males age 20-29
  • 2 females age 30-39
  • 2 males age 30-39
  • 2 females age 40-49
  • 2 males age 40-49
  • 2 females age 50-59
  • 3 males age 50-59
  • 1 male age 60-69

GF High closed Monday and Tuesday for cleaning due to new COVID-19 cases

Gov. Steve Bullock held a press conference Tuesday morning to discuss the increase in cases statewide, since the state total is now 10,700 and there was a spike in new cases last week.

Bullock said that some guidance encourages the use of fines for not wearing masks, but at this time, he had no plans to implement similar measures.

Instead, he again encouraged the public to wear their masks correctly, follow distancing guidelines and stay home if feeling unwell.

Stacey Anderson, the lead epidemiologist for DPHHS, said that there were increases of cases in all age groups last week, but there were significant increases in some age groups. Some of that can be connected back to schools opening, attending social gatherings and bars, she said.

Anderson said there are 62 Montana schools, of all levels and universities, reporting positive COVID-19 cases.

Jim Murphy, bureau chief of communicable disease and prevention bureau for DPHHS, said the state started seeing increased cases in June, but then stabilized around 800 cases per week from mid-July to early September. Over those two months, the state added about 70 percent of the 10,000 cases statewide, Murphy said.

That’s “fairly rapid growth,” he said.

Last week, there was a “remarkable increase in cases” with 490 cases more cases than the week prior to a week’s total of 1,249, for an “all time high” in the state.

Dr. Greg Holzman, the state medical officer at DPHHS, said that while much is still not known about the virus, Montanans can learn from what’s happened here so far and the experience in other states.