The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported 641 new positive COVID-19 cases Saturday, October 17. The mid-morning report listed 8,598 active cases in the state, with 324 people hospitalized. COVID-19 has claimed 240 lives in Montana so far.

By county: Yellowstone had 110 new cases, Cascade-63 cases, Gallatin-62, Flathead-50, Missoula-37, Roosevelt-37, Hill-35, Deer Lodge-25, Lake-25, Lewis & Clark-20, Ravalli-19, Valley-12, Blaine-11, Dawson-11, Lincoln-9, Stillwater-9, Fergus-8. Richland-7, Rosebud-7, Carbon-6, McCone-6, Teton-6, Broadwater-5, Custer-5, Jefferson-5, Silver Bow-5, Toole-5, Granite-4, Madison-4, Powell-4, Carter-3, Misselshell-3, Phillips-3, Powder River-3, Beaverhead-2, Mineral-2, and 1 each in Glacier, Meagher, Park, Pondera, Prairie, Sheridan and Wibaux Counties.

The Friday, October 16, afternoon report from Ravalli County Public Health had 24 new COVID-19 cases, making 132 active cases in the Bitterroot Valley, and of the active cases, seven people are hospitalized. The Montana surge has generated national interest as a hot spot in the percentage of new COVID-19 cases per capita. Depending on the survey, Montana is either number two or number three in that category among the 50 states.

Schools throughout the state have had to adjust schedules and classes due to the rise in cases and the related Close Contacts. Ravalli County's official COVID-19 website has a page of instructions for those who have been notified by Public Health that they are in that Close Contact classification. The main instruction, though, is to self-quarantine - do not go to work and do not go to the grocery store.

The general public advice continues to be: Wear a mask in public (both indoors and outdoors), wash your hands frequently during the day and try to keep your social circles as small as possible. The other important tip - Get A Flu Shot.