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Health Departments Advise Vaccination And Masking Up As State COVID-19 Cases Rise

Three vials containing the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
Jess Sheldahl
Yellowstone Public Radio
Vials containing the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Under 50 percent of eligible Montana residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and health officials are encouraging Montanans to continue taking protective measures in response to increasing case numbers.

Montana is adding daily new case numbers not seen since the early months of 2021.

Missoula County health officer D’Shane Barnett.

“We are in advanced community spread,” Barnett says.

At a press conference Wednesday, Barnett said the county is slowly creeping toward an average of 25 new cases daily per 100,000 residents over a week, which will strain health care resources, and large outbreaks are likely if the county passes that.

Barnett said at this pace Missoula county will double its active cases in less than a month. Health officials in Yellowstone County also expect cases to rise if the case count stays status quo.

St. Vincent Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Michael Bush said at a press conference Wednesday that there are 16 patients with COVID-19 at the hospital.

“But we’re anticipating over the next month that that number is going to double,” Bush says.

Yellowstone County health officer John Felton said the number of cases in the county is trending up due to the infectious Delta variant.

Gallatin County is also seeing an uptick in cases. Kallie Kujawa is the lead for Bozeman Health’s COVID-19 Response Team.

“Within the hospitalizations that we’re seeing, the majority, in fact I think at this point in time all of them who are hospitalized that have been positive for coronavirus are unvaccinated,” says Kallie Kujawa.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccines help prevent COVID-19, including severe illness and death. The CDC finds that a small population of fully vaccinated people do contract COVID, including the Delta variant, and can spread the variant to others.

Health officials urge the public to get vaccinated and wear masks in crowded indoor spaces.

Yellowstone Public Radio’s Kayla Desroches, Olivia Weitz and Montana Public Radio’s Freddy Monares contributed to this reporting.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.