Big Sky Roundup

Missoula County reports ‘notable uptick’ in COVID-19 cases

By: - May 17, 2022 4:16 pm

A model of COVID-19, known as coronavirus. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)

Missoula County says it is seeing a “notable uptick” in COVID-19 cases with 65 new cases and 203 active cases reported on Tuesday.

In the county, the seven-day daily average of new cases per 100,000 people increased in the past two weeks from 10 per 100,000 on May 3 to 20 per 100,000 on Tuesday, according to a news release from the Missoula City-County Health Department.

According to the release, health officials saw the increase coming.

“When you couple highly infectious subvariants and sub-lineages with a relaxed public attitude toward COVID, you’re bound to see increases in cases,” Health Officer D’Shane Barnett explained in the release.

The latest genetic sequencing results from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services published on April 29 indicated Omicron variants made up 99 percent of Montana’s COVID-19 cases, and of those, 63 percent of cases were BA.2 — a subvariant of Omicron, the release said.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s measure of community spread remains low for Missoula County, the release said many key indicators that Missoula Public Health monitors as early alert signals for a changing COVID situation have moved to yellow status.

“When we move a key indicator to yellow, it means that we are doing worse than the week before. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re bad overall,” Barnett said. “For example, as of May 11 the transmission rate of COVID is 1.15. That means each COVID positive individual is infecting more than one person on average. When that number is above one, cases are increasing, when it is below one, cases are decreasing.”

Missoula Public Health continues to work with healthcare providers in the community to ensure there is capacity to handle surges in testing and vaccination. At this time, Missoula will still move forward with discontinuing its COVID-19 testing services at the 3665 W. Broadway clinic after Thursday, May 19. COVID-19 vaccine appointments will continue to be offered in a one-on-one appointment style through Missoula Public Health’s immunization clinic at 301 W. Alder Street.

“Preserving hospital capacity remains the top priority, and it is something we watch closely. Thankfully, we have the tools available to prevent the worst outcomes of COVID-19. The federal government just allowed households to order a third batch of COVID-19 tests. Tests also remain available at several pharmacies and walk-in clinics,” Barnett said.

He continued, “Vaccines and boosters are one of the strongest tools to prevent severe hospitalization and death. Vaccines remain available at pharmacies across our community. Lastly, if individuals test positive for COVID-19, they are encouraged to reach out to their provider to see if they would be a good candidate for Paxlovid or Molnupiravir. These COVID-19 therapeutics can help prevent severe illness and death in vulnerable individuals. They are most effective when taken within five days of symptom onset.”

Missoula Public Health also recommends that individuals who are particularly vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID-19 consider wearing high-filtration masks, such as KN95s, KF94s, or N95s in crowded indoor settings.

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Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. Keith was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. He can be reached by text or call at 406-475-2954 .

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