- Associated Press - Friday, July 10, 2020

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Health officials confirmed the deaths of three Montana residents on Friday as a result of the coronavirus, including two residents of a memory care facility in Billings, bringing the number of deaths associated with the facility to five.

The new deaths were announced Friday, as the state reported a single-day record of 127 confirmed virus cases, the third time the state set a record this week.

Nineteen of the new cases announced on Friday are associated with the Canyon Creek Memory Care facility, including nine staff members and 10 residents, Yellowstone County health officials said Friday afternoon. That brings the total number of known cases associated with the facility to 91 - 55 residents and 36 employees.

All but four residents of the facility have now tested positive for the virus, according to RiverStone Health Vice President Barbara Schneeman.

A man in his 90s died Thursday in a Yellowstone County hospital while a man in his 80s died at the Canyon Creek Memory Care facility. Both men were residents of the facility.

“We share in the grief of each family member and friend that has lost a loved one to COVID-19 related disease. We must never forget that each person who passes is more than a number; they were somebody’s father, mother, sister, uncle or husband,” John Felton, Yellowstone County Health Officer and RiverStone Health President, said in a statement.

Of the new positive cases reported in the facility on Friday, seven had previously tested negative for the virus, seven had tests that were either unsatisfactory or inconclusive, and five people were newly tested, health officials said.

As of Friday afternoon, four Canyon Creek residents were hospitalized in Yellowstone County hospitals.

Gov. Steve Bullock said earlier this week that the Canyon Creek Memory Care facility was one of several dozen assisted care facilities that declined to participate in so-called sentinel testing it was offered by the state at no cost last month. Montana is now requiring assisted living and long-term care facilities to test their residents and staff if they want to allow outside visitors.

The Ravalli County Public Health department said that a woman in her 90s died of the virus Friday morning. This marks the county’s first coronavirus-related death.

Friday’s cases raised the state’s total known coronavirus cases to 1,593, including 465 in the past week. Twenty-one people are hospitalized and 29 have died. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

The Montana Hospital Association announced Friday that it would partner with the Montana Department of Commerce to deliver 45,000 free cloth face coverings to 25 communities, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

“If we want to keep our economy open and ensure our state’s healthcare system has the capacity to treat all patients who need medical care, we need to mask up,” Rich Rasmussen, president and chief executive officer for the Montana Hospital Association, said in a statement. “Until we have a vaccine, wearing a mask is one of the most simple and effective things we can do to keep the virus from shutting down our state.”

Bullock hasn’t issued a statewide face covering mandate, but some cities and counties have implemented requirements to wear masks in public.

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