Eighth resident dies of COVID-19, county over 700 cases

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
COVID graphic

An eighth Beaverhead County resident died of COVID-19 last week, according to state of Montana data. The resident’s age and gender have not yet been announced by local public health officials.

This is the fourth county resident to die from the virus since the start of December.

The county passed 700 total cases and added 53 cases over the past week. As of Tuesday, the county clocked 744 total cases with 40 of those active, according to state of Montana data. The newest death was added Saturday on the state’s website.

Most of the county’s new cases are in people in their 40s, followed by those in their 50s, according to state of Montana data. New cases appeared in people in all age groups, including a 100-year-old.

Barrett Hospital and Healthcare had approximately 83 percent of its beds occupied, with four of those COVID-19 related, according to the statewide hospital capacity report Monday. That report indicated three beds were available at the hospital.

Beaverhead County High School reported a student tested positive Wednesday, Dec. 16. The district’s staff and students were in contact with the positive case during the period of potential exposure.

Montana’s Commissioner of Education issued guidance for students planning to return to class in January. Students will be encouraged to complete a 10-day self-quarantine immediately before returning to campuses, and asked to monitor their health daily, according to the University of Montana Western health advisories website. Students will also be encouraged to get a COVID-19 test before returning to campus, regardless of whether they have symptoms. Those students who test positive should delay returning and quarantine or isolate as directed by health care professionals.

Most of UMW’s spring classes will be offered in-person, with online and blended formats available. Fall semester precautions will remain in place for spring; face masks will be required on campus and social distancing must be observed. Free symptomatic testing will continue to be offered starting Jan. 11.

Vaccines are slowly beginning distribution nationwide. Barrett Hospital and Healthcare officials said Monday the facility will distribute vaccines according to prioritization as outlined by the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

“Once the COVID-19 vaccines are available, we will follow that guidance and focus first on vaccinating our caregivers,” Barrett Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Greg Moore said. “However, we are also preparing to vaccinate vulnerable patients and staff in long term care facilities and will do so as supply and guidance allow. We are committed to keeping the general public informed about when and who will be able to get the vaccines as more information becomes available.”

Availability of the vaccine for the general public is not expected until later in 2021, and hospital officials encourage residents to wear masks, maintain social distance, limit gatherings and continue handwashing practices.

For more information on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, visit https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusvaccine .

Statewide new cases have been on a downward trend over the past week. As of Tuesday, the state had added 3,907 new cases for the week, just over half the new cases clocked two weeks ago. Gov. Steve Bullock and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams attributed the declines to the effectiveness of the statewide mask requirement, instituted Nov. 20.

There were 69 new deaths added over the week; on par with the prior two weeks’ worth of deaths. As of Tuesday, Montana counted 77,947 total cases and 895 deaths. There are more than 17.7 million COVID-19 positive cases and over 316,800 deaths nationwide as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).