Richland County has lost its seventh person to COVID-19, an individual in his 70s.

“This morning we are reporting another loved one lost to COVID-19,” Richland County Health Department Administrator Brittney Peterson said. “Our thoughts are with his wife and family.”

Richland County Health Department also reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, Nov. 17, along with the release of 14 individuals from isolation in addition to the death.

That brings active cases to 128, a slight drop from the report on Monday, Nov. 16.

The total case count is 634, with 499 recoveries, and now seven deaths.

Montana, meanwhile, reported 1,500 new cases out of 10,494 tests, which brings the active case count statewide to 19,750. Active hospitalizations are 456, and deaths 543.

The Health Department continues to urge the public to take COVID-19 recommendations and precautions seriously to slow the spread of the virus in Richland County.

It also asked for patience as it continues working to get everyone who was a close contact to a recent case called. Cases have been spiking in Richland County and across Montana, as colder weather has forced everyone to spend more time indoors, increasing the risk of catching the disease.

Those who have been named as a close contact or exposed to someone with COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes in a single 24-hour period, or who have the onset of flu or cold-like symptoms are urged to remain home and monitor for symptoms.

It is also recommended that they isolate from family members, particularly any who are high-risk individuals. The Richland County Health Department continues to recommend adherence to CDC guidelines.

These include maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from others, wearing a mask when that is not possible, washing hands often and appropriately, cleaning and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces.

Masks work by blocking micro-droplets of spit produced while talking, which can carry COVID-19 into the air and infect others. A mask protects others from you.

Studies show that communities that have widespread adherence to guidelines such as these can reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses by 50 percent or more, which will help keep businesses and schools open.

The most effective masks, according to a recent study by scientists at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, the University of Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory, are those that use at least two different materials.

The scientists found that layers of tightly woven cotton and chiffon were effective when it comes to absorbing microdroplets that can carry COVID-19 into the air while people are speaking. According to the research, such masks are almost as effective as an N95 mask, if the fit of the mask is snug.

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