Another 633 COVID-19 cases and 20 more deaths were reported in a Wednesday morning update to Montana's case tracking and information website.
The state's active case total Wednesday was at an all-time high of 10,122.
The 20 deaths bring the state death total to 325 people.
The state website relies on data from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
A day after White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx visited Billings, Yellowstone County added more cases than any other county, with 141 new cases for 2,029 active cases.
During her visit, Birx advocated for masking and ramping up asymptomatic testing.
In an interview with KULR8 news, Birx described Montana as being in "a very serious situation" and that it doesn't matter if people are in an urban or rural area.
"The entire state is in a red zone from our analysis. We don't see a dramatic improvement," she said. She said evidence shows Montana cases will continue to rise.
"Frankly, it's only going to get worse with the number of hospitalizations and the number of Montanans that die from this disease."
Birx’s visit also emphasized the importance of reducing case numbers, because there is little staff available to help as other states experience surges, according to Billings Clinic CEO Dr. Scott Ellner,
Earlier this week, the White House Coronavirus Task Force ranked Montana as the third worst state in the nation in terms of new cases per 100,000 population added last week, according to the nonprofit The Center for Public Integrity, which has published task force reports issued to governors every week that are not publicly available.
Montana ranked only behind neighboring red zone states North Dakota and South Dakota in terms of new cases per 100,000 population added last week.
Montana was also listed in the same report as the having the worst test positivity rate in the nation, and being in the red zone for that category since statewide test positivity is above 10%.
Cascade, Gallatin, Flathead, Hill, Lewis and Clark, Ravalli, Rosebud, Carter, Lake and Missoula all added a double-digit number of cases Wednesday.
The state website on Wednesday showed 374 active hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and a total of 1,298 hospitalizations.
Montana has had 29,966 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of those cases 19,519 people are considered recovered, meaning they meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for a person with COVID-19 to be released from isolation.
In a press call hosted by Gov. Steve Bullock's office Tuesday, state medical officer Dr. Gregory Holzman explained why it's important to keep case numbers low.
"We cannot treat this outbreak one person at a time for many reasons. We cannot cocoon the vulnerable. We hear that a lot. We are an interdependent society," Holzman said.
He pointed to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention article showing that in hot spots, an increase in cases among people age 24 and under preceded an increase in cases in older adults in those areas by three to four weeks.
"Infectious respiratory diseases such as these will not stay in just one age cohort, they will pass from one group to another, because we all interact," he said.
During the same press call, DPHHS epidemiologist Stacey Anderson provided tips to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission this Halloween.
"We're not going to take your holidays away, but what we want to try to do is encourage folks to be diligent and to do these things safely so that we can still continue to celebrate the holidays with our loved ones," Anderson said.
At least seven of the deaths added to the state website Wednesday were reported out of Cascade County, where the state website lists a total of 13 deaths.
Tuesday Cascade County's health department reported 12 deaths since Oct. 15 for a total of 26 deaths in the county.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is aware of the difference in deaths reported from Cascade County. The number reported by Cascade County's health department is the most current, according to Jon Ebelt, a public information officer for DPHHS.
Ebelt said DPHHS is working on reconciling the death numbers they are reporting with those being reported by Cascade County's health department.
"We should be caught up to their numbers in the next couple days," Ebelt said.
In the past, DPHHS has attributed some inconsistencies in COVID-19 data reported on the state website versus data reported by county health departments to reporting issues and other problems that arise from working with a large amount of data on a daily basis.
Yellowstone County reported two more deaths Wednesday, bringing the county COVID-19 death total to 88 people. A press release from RiverStone health included some basic information about the people who died.
Both people were described as men. One of them was in his 50s. The other was in his 80s. Both died while hospitalized in the county on Tuesday.
One of the men's deaths had been added to the state website Wednesday, while the other would be reflected on the state website Thursday, according to RiverStone.
In a written statement included in the press release, RiverStone CEO and County Health Officer John Felton underscored the effect these deaths have on community members.
“In the last week, seven Yellowstone County families have experienced the heartbreak of saying goodbye to loved ones taken by COVID-19. In total, our community has lost 52 men and 36 women to this disease. These were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and grandparents," Felton said. "These deaths didn’t have to happen and as a community, we must, and we can, prevent more families from burying loved ones."
Counties added the following cases in an update to the state website Wednesday:
- Yellowstone with 141 (2,029 active)
- Cascade with 81 (1,012 active)
- Gallatin with 77 (769 active)
- Flathead with 64 (619 active)
- Hill with 34 (405 active)
- Lewis and Clark with 33 (708)
- Ravalli with 24 (286 active)
- Rosebud with 12 (64 active)
- Carter with 11 (36 active)
- Lake with 10 (275 active)
- Missoula with 10 (758 active)
- Glacier with nine (680 active)
- Musselshell with eight (55 active)
- Pondera with eight (32 active)
- Richland with eight (74 active)
- Blaine with seven (148 active)
- Dawson with seven (68 active)
- Phillips with seven (25 active)
- Silver Bow with seven (207 active)
- Beaverhead with six (40 active)
- Sheridan with six (22 active)
- Carbon with five (33 active)
- Custer with five (99 active)
- Lincoln with five (83 active)
- Powder River with five (13 active)
- Roosevelt with five (373 active)
- Big Horn with four (234 active)
- Daniels with four (19 active)
- Deer Lodge with three (162 active)
- Granite with three (26 active)
- Jefferson with three (53 active)
- Meagher with three (17 active)
- Garfield with two (two active)
- Powell with two (100 active)
- Stillwater with two (82 active)
- Valley with two (93 active)
- Fallon with one (17 active)
- Fergus with one (95 active)
- Golden Valley with one (11 active)
- Park with one (42 active)
- Prairie with one (three active)
- Sweet Grass with one (21 active)
- Teton with one (21 active)
- Toole with one (13 active)
- Wibaux with one (two active)