COVID cases subside, omicron appears in state

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The past couple of weeks have been relatively calm for new COVID infections, in Beaverhead County and statewide.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to rage in other parts of the country, however, with daily new case counts and deaths ramping back up again.

The county added nine cases in the past two weeks, sitting at no active and 1,601 total cases tallied since the start of the pandemic in 2020. The vaccination rate in the county is at 55%, which is higher than the state (53%), but lower than the national rate (61.8%).

Beaverhead County Public Health officials will have free home COVID-19 tests available this week. Officials are asking families not to stockpile kits, as they will continue to get more. The kits are used to screen family members before going to New Years holiday gatherings. The kits are available through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and

2 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. People who have symptoms are encouraged to get tested at Barrett Hospital, Southwest Montana Community Health Center or Beaverhead Urgent Care.

Another form of COVID treatment has been given federal emergency authorization, public health officials announced. The treatment is for Pfizer’s Paxlovid and ritonavir tablets, which are used for mild-to-moderate coronavirus disease in adults and youths 12 years of age or older. The tablets are not a replacement for a vaccine, and are used for people at high risk for severe COVID-19 (including hospitalization and death). The treatment is by prescription only.

Public health will start its vaccination clinics up again beginning Jan. 7. The clinics will be every Friday at the public health office (41 Barrett St.), from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All vaccines are available, as well as boosters (though a booster of Johnson and Johnson is not recommended). Residents can make an appointment by calling 406-683-3203 and leaving a message.

Barrett Hospital had no COVID patients in the facility, and was 28% full, according to the most recent state hospitalization report. Facilities in Carter, Gallatin and Yellowstone counties were listed as 90% full; and hospitals in Cascade and Lewis and Clark counties were listed as 100% full. Hospitalizations statewide have been trending downward.

The state added 2,345 new cases and 51 new deaths in the past couple of weeks. As of Tuesday, there were 196,453 total cases and 2,904 deaths recorded in Montana. The new omicron variant was discovered recently in three positive COVID tests in the past couple of weeks. The delta variant remains the dominant virus strain circulating in the state.

There are more than 52.2 million COVID-19 cases and over 813,792 deaths tallied nationally.