County COVID cases on an upswing

By 
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
COVID

New coronavirus cases doubled over the past week, though that may be due to delayed reporting from the holidays.

Beaverhead County added 35 new cases over the week and passed 800 total cases since state tracking for the virus began in March 2019. As of Tuesday, there were 25 active and 816 total cases tallied on the state of Montana’s COVID-19 data tracking site.

The majority of new cases this week were from residents in their teens (8), followed by those in their 20s (7), according to state of Montana data. New cases were recorded in all age groups under age 80.

Four Beaverhead County High School students tested positive for the virus in the past week, according to the high school’s website. All four students were in contact with other students and staff during the period of possible exposure.

Barrett Hospital and Healthcare’s capacity sits at 67 percent full, according to the state hospital capacity report as of Monday. One patient is hospitalized for COVID-19, and 11 beds are filled for other ailments. The hospital had six beds available.

University of Montana Western students living on campus will have the option of asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for the first two weeks of classes, according to the university’s COVID-19 website. The testing is offered first to students living in on-campus residence halls, and then to all UMW students as supplies allow.

Students who test positive will be isolated for 10 days so they do not spread the virus to others.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services approved the use of the rapid test kits for the state’s campuses, which provide results in 15 to 30 minutes, according to the website. Montana was provided the tests by the federal government, which purchased more than 150 million for use nationwide. DPHHS is providing the campuses the tests from its supply.

Vaccinations with the new Moderna vaccine have begun for first responders and health care professionals in the county. Next in line to receive the vaccine include high-risk individuals age 70 and older. Public health officials announced last week they hope to begin vaccinating those individuals in the county soon, and are formulating a plan on how to accomplish those vaccinations in a safe and speedy manner.

Beaverhead Public Health Officer Dr. Megan Evans answered questions about the new vaccines on the public health Facebook page. Since the COVID-19 vaccines are a new type of vaccine, there are a number of unknowns regarding how long immunity lasts and whether residents will need to be vaccinated annually.

Known vaccine side effects include fatigue, a sore arm at the shot site, and flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, headache and body aches. Vaccines will be administered at public health for no cost; any charges should be covered by an individual’s insurance plan. There is a federal program to cover the cost for those who do not have insurance as well, Evans stated in the post.

Protection from the coronavirus can take about two weeks after the second dose of the vaccine is administered. Wearing masks and maintaining physical distance will still be required, she said in the post.

Evans said she did not expect the vaccine would be available for the general public until springtime, though the timing will depend on the availability of the vaccine and how quickly higherpriority groups are vaccinated.

For more information about the vaccine, visit https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusvaccine or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html .

Statewide, 4,413 new cases and 62 deaths were recorded in the past week. As of Tuesday, 87,077 total residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and 1,067 have died of the virus, according to state data. There have been over 22.35million total cases and more than 375,100 deaths nationwide as of Tuesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.