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Gallatin City-County Health Officer talks about 6 COVID-19 cases linked to Big Sky construction site

No further reported COVID-19 cases linked to site
Posted at 3:09 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 17:13:53-04

BIG SKY — According to the Gallatin City-County Health Department, six employees working on a construction project in Spanish Peaks in Big Sky tested positive for COVID-19 all around the same time.

“The last time we had a case associated with that site was March 27th, which was over 2 weeks ago. So those folks are all recovered by this point in time. They’re no longer contagious, which is good news,” said Gallatin City-County Health Department Officer Matt Kelley.

Kelley says Suffolk Construction Company sent sick employees home immediately and is hopeful the fast response made a difference.

“The construction site asked them to go home and get better. And so we’re hoping and we think it prevented the spread of additional cases,” he said.

In a Health Department board meeting Wednesday morning, there was public comment about concern of construction work in general continuing during the pandemic.

“I certainly understand the duress that the construction outfits are under. But community health in my mind is significantly more important than those concerns at this point,” said Brian Leland, an electrical contractor. “Building third and fourth luxury homes in Yellowstone club and Big Sky doesn't seem essential to me.”

But determining what is an essential business and what’s not is up to the state of Montana.

“Construction at the ICU at the hospital is the number one essential thing that we have going on. And everything is some degree less essential than that,” said Kelley.

“It’s really hard as a local health department to think about the hundreds of construction projects that are ongoing and try and think about assigning, 'Oh, this one is essential and this one is not,'” he added.

In the meantime, 300 people continue working at the construction site in Spanish Peaks with extra precautions in place to keep people healthy.

In a statement from Suffolk Construction, Executive Project Director Joel Nickel said, “Our construction site continues to operate in accordance with Governor Bullock’s directive and with the strictest of safety protocols outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.”