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Dawson County reports COVID outbreak at detention center

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Posted at 3:54 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 17:54:35-05

GREAT FALLS — An outbreak of COVID-19 has been reported at the Dawson County Correctional Facility in Glendive.

Dawson County Sheriff Ross Canen said in a news release that testing conducted in December identified 53 cases of the virus in the joint state and county facility. Five of the positive tests were among county inmates, and 12 facility staff members have also tested positive.

None of the inmates have been hospitalized, the sheriff said. The facility holds 170 offenders.

“We have been extremely fortunate to have kept COVID-19 out of the facility for this long, and I think that is due to the abundance of caution practiced by our staff,” said Canen. “Now that the virus is here, we are continuing to follow guidelines provided by the Centers on Disease Control and state health officials. In addition, we are working closely with our local health department to ensure necessary testing and receive guidance to effectively manage the situation. “

The news release says the facility has made efforts to ensure the health and safety of its inmates and staff, including:

  • Education of staff and inmates about how to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19, and how to prevent the spread of the virus though good personal hygiene, social distancing, use of personal protective equipment.
  • Increased cleaning and disinfection at the facility.
  • Proper use of PPE by inmates and staff, including masks, rubber gloves, etc.
  • Mandatory testing for staff and contractors.
  • Restriction of offender movement in and out of the facility.

Staff are consulting with the health department to ensure proper quarantine and isolation of infected inmates. The health department is also completing contact tracing related to the outbreak. Medical staff conduct daily visits to offenders to answer questions, monitor offender health status, and provide appropriate medical care. “Our staff is continuing to do what we do — keep staff, our inmate population and the public safe,” Canen said.

Dawson County has been hit hard recently by the pandemic. The health department said on Wednesday: "Dawson County is ranked #1 amongst Montana counties for the highest number of average daily cases in the last 7 days when normalized to 100,000 residents." There have been 22 deaths due to COVID in the county this year.



There were 723 new COVID-19 cases reported in Montana on Thursday, and the statewide death toll has now reached 887, according to data compiled by MTN News during a 24-hour period. The most recent deaths were reported in Yellowstone County, Dawson County, Flathead County, Lewis & Clark County, and and Ravalli County.

There are currently 306 people hospitalized for treatment of the virus, and the cumulative number of hospitalizations is 3,199. The number of active COVID cases in the state is currently 8,893, according to MTN News, and there has been a cumulative total of 75,893 cases of the virus in Montana. Of the total cases, 66,113 have recovered. The number of tests performed in the state has reached 742,540, an increase of 6,481 during this 24-hour reporting period.

The counties with the most deaths to date are:

  • Big Horn: 58
  • Blaine: 22
  • Cascade: 91
  • Dawson: 22
  • Flathead: 51
  • Gallatin: 30
  • Glacier: 31
  • Hill: 33
  • Lewis & Clark: 29
  • Missoula: 45
  • Roosevelt: 51
  • Rosebud: 26
  • Silver Bow: 38
  • Yellowstone: 146

SOURCES: The numbers reported above reflect the latest data from the official Montana COVID website as well as supplemental data from county health departments. The disparity between numbers provided by the MT Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) and numbers from county health departments continues to grow as COVID cases escalate in Montana. MTN News uses both state data and county data to provide more accurate and timely information. As a result, numbers reported by MTN do not align with the DPHHS figures.

CONTEXT: Not every person who tests positive actually becomes ill or exhibits symptoms. Many do not; of those who do become sick, some experience mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization. Others experience more severe symptoms, and some do require hospitalization. Every person who tests positive for COVID, however, has the potential to spread the virus to other people, including family members and friends, which is why public health officials continue to encourage everyone to wear a mask and maintain at least the recommended six feet of "social distance" when in public. The CDC released data in late August which emphasizes that people with contributing or chronic medical conditions are at much greater risk of dying from COVID-19. Click here to read more.