Hospital mulls crisis care, 15th resident dies

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Beaverhead County’s COVID-19 caseload worsened this week, with Barrett Hospital staff eyeing crisis care standards.

Beaverhead County Public Health also reported a 15th county resident died of COVID-19 Aug. 22 – a man in his 80s.

Crisis care standards occur when hospitals can no longer deliver the normal types of care from an overwhelmed system, according to a hospital press release. The goal is to provide care to as many patients – and save as many lives – as possible. Patients with non-emergency medical care will be at the back of the line in terms of treatment priority; non-essential care could be postponed, and those who arrive with emergencies may have to wait for an emergency bed, or be transferred to another hospital.

“Providers and health care facilities across Montana are currently experiencing limitations in their ability to provide the standard of care that we all wish to provide to our communities and normally expect to provide,” Barrett Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Greg Moore said.

Barrett Hospital had six COVID-19 beds full, and was 50% full as of Monday, according to the statewide hospital capacity report. Medical centers in Cascade, Lewis & Clark and Teton counties were 100% full; hospitals and medical centers in Carbon, Chouteau, Flathead, Sweet Grass and Yellowstone counties were over 90% full.

As of Monday, Barrett Hospital was approved to convert five more rooms to be supplied with negative air pressure; five more rooms to have medical air retrofitted; and staff have ordered two more high-flow oxygen units, officials said.

Beaverhead County added 93 new cases to its total in the past week, 43 in a spike on Thursday. As of Tuesday, the county listed 107 active and 1,246 total cases since the start of the pandemic. Most of the new cases were in people in their teens and 20s (20 cases each group). New cases appeared in every age group except people in their 80s.

Beaverhead County’s vaccination rate ticked up to 54% this week, ahead of the 53% statewide, but below the nation’s 55.4% rate. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized COVID-19 booster shots with the Pfizer vaccine, for specific groups of people, six months after their second dose. Those groups include people aged 65 years and older, residents aged 18 years or older in long-term care settings, people aged 50-64 years old with underlying medical conditions, or those at high risk of contracting it through their job. For more information, visit .

Beaverhead County High School reported one staff member and two students tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week. The state of Montana’s school cases report (with cases as of Sept. 17) listed the high school had 10 total cases – six among staff and four among students. Dillon Elementary listed 13 total cases (eight students, five staff) and Dillon Middle School three total (two students, one staff); the state document lags behind local reports. School District #10’s weekly report listed 19 total positive cases since the start of school (seven staff, 12 students between all grade levels). Wisdom School listed one total case (a staff member) on the state report. The University of Montana Western listed five total cases on the state’s report.

Beaverhead County Public Health officials noted on Facebook they will soon have funding to hire two part-time case investigators and contact tracers; they are very far behind due to the COVID-19 case spike.

Public health provides COVID vaccinations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Friday at the clinic, 41 Barrett St. Residents are asked to call 683-3203 to make an appointment if possible, though they will accept walkins. UMW will offer on-campus vaccination clinics for students, faculty and staff, with the next one from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the Bulldog Lounge (call 406-683-7388 to make an appointment or walk-in).

Southwest Montana Community Health Center (406-683- 4440) and Safeway Pharmacy (406-683-6226) also have vaccines available.

Montana’s case spike also worsened, adding 5,977 new cases and 88 deaths in the past week. As of Tuesday, the state tallied 148,490 total COVID-19 cases and 1,989 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year.

The worst outbreaks continue to be in Yellowstone (2,461 active cases), Missoula (1,274), Cascade (1,236) and Flathead (1,046) counties.

There have been more than 42.8 million COVID-19 cases and over 686,600 deaths nationwide since the start of the pandemic, according to the CDC.