Montana hits 68 COVID-19 cases
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Montana hits 68 COVID-19 cases

A healthcare worker tests a patient for Covid-19

A health care worker outside the COVID-19 drive-up testing facility at St. Peter's Health on March 24, 2020, in Helena, Mont.

On Wednesday, Montana reached 68 COVID-19 cases, with Gallatin County adding five new cases and Hill County on the Hi-Line seeing its first known case.

That represents a jump in known cases of 30% since Tuesday.

Gallatin County now has 24 known cases, twice what the next closest county, Yellowstone, has at 12. The state also reported its first hospitalization from the coronavirus, though noted in a disclaimer on its reporting website that could include hospitalizations when the test was performed after the patient was admitted to the hospital. An official did not immediately respond to a question about if the person was still hospitalized or where they live.

Missoula County has six, Flathead County has five, Butte-Silver Bow County has four, Cascade has five, Lewis and Clark has three, Madison and Broadwater have two, and Lincoln, Jefferson, Ravalli, Roosevelt and Hill each have one.

Montana's first four COVID-19 cases were announced March 13 and the number of known cases has grown steadily since then. So far, 2,193 people have been tested at the state lab in Helena, though facilities can also send tests to private labs.

Also Wednesday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock told counties they could move to hold the June 2 primary vote by mail. He additionally told counties that any voting or registration done in person needed to comply with social distancing orders keeping people a minimum of 6 feet from each other.

On Tuesday, Bullock extended two orders, one closing K-12 public schools and the other shutting businesses where people congregate like bars, gyms and theaters, while allowing grab-and-go options for things like restaurants and coffee shops, to April 10.

The governor is also prohibiting nonessential social and recreational gatherings of more than 10 people outside a home or place of residence, if a distance of at least 6 feet between people cannot be maintained. He also told stores to follow rules keeping people 6 feet apart, though he exempted essential places like grocery stores, health care facilities and pharmacies.

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