10 staff and residents test positive, 4 hospitalized
Thursday, October 1, 2020
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At least 10 residents and staff members of the Meadowlark Assisted Living facility in Columbus have tested positive for COVID-19.

Three residents are hospitalized — one in Stillwater County and two outside the county.

The announcement was first made at a Stillwater County Commission meeting Tuesday morning, which was followed by a press release from public health officials.

Positive cases were first confirmed at the facility on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Caslen Living Centers owns the Meadowlark facility.

All Meadowlark residents and workers have been notified of the positive results. The state requires assisted living facilities to isolate residents who have tested positive and to quarantine residents who have been exposed to the virus, even if they have tested negative, according to the release.

Per quarantine and contact tracing protocols, the facility is not allowing visitors.

“Maintaining the health and safety of vulnerable populations, as well as our community has been our highest priority,” said Stillwater County Public Health Officer Dr. Cody White in the press release. “The Caslen Living Centers’ Meadowlark facility is one of several assisted living residences in the state reporting illness in residents and/or employees.”

All of the facilities staff and residents will be tested weekly until there are two consecutive weeks of no cases.

Public health officials are asking Stillwater residents to continue following guidelines to prevent further spread of the virus and to help protect vulnerable citizens, including:

-Wearing a mask in public when social distancing is not possible.

-Washing your hands with soap and water frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

-Social distance whenever possible.

-Stay home when sick.

A public health hotline has been established at (406) 322-1070 for anyone with questions or concerns about COVID-19.


Those in assisted living centers and nursing homes were the first group of people identified as being the most likely to suffer serious medical issues and die from the COVID-19 virus. Because of this, Gov. Steve Bullock ordered all such facilities in the state locked down in March, as a means of protecting the most vulnerable population.

That lockdown remains in effect and will only be lifted when the state enters Phase 3 reopening. Montana is currently in Phase 2 of the reopening plan and has been since June.


Caslen Living Centers Inc. owns and operates the Meadowlark Assisted Living Facility.

The facility has been in existence for approximately 13 years and offers 19 units that are a combination of efficiency and one-bedroom apartments, as well as four retirement units.

Owner Mike White contacted the News Tuesday afternoon and was unable to get a press release issued by press time late Wednesday afternoon.


There has been a spike in COVID-19 cases in Stillwater County in the past several days, with the count now standing at 84.

Thirty of the 184 tests administered last week yielded positive test results, which amounts to a 16 percent positivity rate for last week alone.

Stillwater County’s overall positivity rate among those tested has been running at .86 percent.

Between Monday and Tuesday, seven new cases were added to the total, with the trend expected to continue as contact tracing is conducted by public health officials. Another five cases were added Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, there were 35 active cases in the county — four of whom were hospitalized. Two people had died and 47 people had recovered from the virus. Public health officials are waiting on test results from an additional 47 residents.

The Meadowlark Assisted Living Facility in Columbus accounts for 10 of the active cases, with 21 contact tracing test results pending.

Three positive cases have been linked to local schools, specifically Absarokee, Columbus and Park City.

All three schools remain open, thanks to the safety measures in place that were required by public health officials and the governor.

“With the masks and social distancing, we have been able to maintain low risk conditions of exposure to other students and staff to continue school,” said Columbus School District Superintended Jeff Bermes this week.

As of last Wednesday, Sept. 23, 188 students and 90 staff at 121 public schools and universities state wide had tested positive, according to the state’s school COVID-19 database.

The state had not updated the data by press time late Wednesday afternoon.


Statewide, 343,158 COVID-19 tests have been administered, with 13,071 positive cases. That is a 3.8 percent positivity rate on those tested. Using the population number of 1,068,771, the state positivity rate would be 1.2 percent.

There were 348 new cases reported for Monday and 3,232 tests administered on that day as well.

The death count is now 180 — marking a 1.3 percent fatality rate with confirmed cases.

During the previous 93 days, 171,467 tests have been administered, with an average of 108 new cases per day.

For the 70th time in 81 days, the number of recovered cases outpaced active cases, at 9,256 and 3,635 respectively. There are currently 170 active hospitalizations.


There are now 37 counties with four or more active cases — nine of which are in triple-digit numbers. Yellowstone leads with 906 followed by Flathead at 519, Missoula at 341, Roosevelt at 308, Cascade at 290, Glacier at 224, Big Horn at 135, Gallatin at 147 and Lewis and Clark at 113. The rest of the counties are as follows:

-Beaverhead: 26

-Blaine: 15

-Carbon: 10

-Carter: 5

-Choteau: 10

-Custer: 10

-Dawson: 17

-Fergus: 5

-Hill: 44

-Jefferson: 32

-Lake: 38

-Liberty: 6

-Lincoln: 22

-Madison: 8

-Park: 20

-Phillips: 5

-Pondera: 33

-Powder River: 11

-Ravalli: 23

-Rosebud: 86

-Sheridan: 4

-Silver Bow: 45

-Stillwater: 32

-Sweet Grass: 9

-Teton: 5

-Toole: 40

-Valley: 35

-Wheatland: 8


National numbers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Wednesday showed a total of 7,168,077 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and 205,372 deaths. That is a 2.8 percent death rate in confirmed cases. Using national population numbers — which range from 328,239,523 to 331,117,471 —the national positivity rate for those tested is approximately 2.1 percent.

Sources for the above information include the CDC, Stillwater Community Health, the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force and the U.S. Census Bureau.