COVID-19 vaccine is stored at -80 degrees celsius in the pharmacy at Roseland Community Hospital on Dec. 18, 2020 in Chicago. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Montana recorded 12 new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday pushing the tally to just over 2,000 deaths since the onset of the pandemic, according to the state COVID-19 dashboard. Data from the Department of Public Health and Human Services also showed as of Wednesday more than 1 million doses of vaccines have been administered.
“Today our state marks a solemn, tragic milestone with 2,000 Montanans dying as a result of COVID-19,” Gov. Greg Gianforte wrote on Twitter. “I join all Montanans whose hearts go out to the family, neighbors and friends of those we have lost to the virus.
Gianforte’s office did not respond to a question asking if he had any other plans other than vaccine promotion to slow the spread of the infection.
The state has recorded more than 10 deaths for nine consecutive days, not including weekends when the state does not update daily numbers.
Vaccination has been the top messaging priority from top state officials at DPPHS and the Governor’s Office.
“We continue to make progress in Montana with the 1 millionth dose of COVID vaccine administered yesterday,” Gianforte wrote on Twitter. “While we will not mandate vaccination in Montana, I continue to encourage all Montanans to speak to their trusted, personal health care provider and get vaccinated.”
DPPHS spokesperson Jon Ebelt echoed the governor’s statement: “DPHHS’ primary message is to encourage Montanans to get vaccinated. Wearing a face mask when appropriate is one of several tools DPHHS encourages Montanans and visitors to use to slow the spread of the virus.”
While health experts across the state have championed the vaccine, they have also been strong endorsers of health mitigation efforts like masking indoors and social distancing.
“Yellowstone County has lost 331 residents to COVID-19 related illness since April 2020,” said RiverStone Health spokesperson Pat Zellar. “Thirty of those people died just this month. The pandemic continues to cause tremendous grief to our community. All the risk indicators on the county COVID-19 dashboard are red this week, indicating critical concerns for straining our local healthcare and public health systems, a high rate of positive tests, high numbers of new cases in our county and in our region.
“We encourage everyone age 12 and older to get vaccinated because that is our best defense against this lethal virus.”
Statewide, 1,332 new cases were reported on Wednesday, putting the seven-day average for new cases at 852. The state also reported 418 active hospitalizations and 11,981 active cases.
With 3,471 new doses recorded Wednesday, the state has now doled out 1,001,795 doses of the vaccine with a seven-day average of 2,310 doses administered per day. But the state still lags behind on vaccinating its fully eligible population with a rate of only 53 percent. Health experts say a vaccination rate of from 70 to 85 percent is necessary for herd immunity.
Additionally, the Department of Corrections provided an update on COVID-19 in state facilities at a legislative interim committee meeting. Officials said there are three active cases among inmates and 12 active cases among staff. It also reported higher vaccination rates than the general public with 64 percent of inmates at Montana State Prison vaccinated and 65 percent at the women’s prison. At the Pine Hills Correctional Facility, DOC said 10 percent of youth and 72 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.
On Tuesday, a DPPHS report showed that not fully vaccinated Montanans accounted for 89.5 percent of cases, 86.8 percent of hospitalizations and 83.5 percent of deaths between Feb. 7 and Sept. 4. The report also showed that not fully vaccinated Montanans are three times as likely to die and five times more likely to be hospitalized from the infection compared to fully vaccinated Montanans.
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