New county COVID case pace slows

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Beaverhead County’s upward climb of new coronavirus cases may have reached a plateau, with local health officials expressing cautious optimism over declining daily cases.

The slowing case climb mirrors a statewide trend, with nearly 1,000 fewer new cases added this week over the prior week.

The case declines may not stick due to holiday gatherings. There have also been delays in reporting data because of those holidays. Local public health officials cautioned it may be the “calm before the storm” on its Facebook page over the weekend.

As of Tuesday, Beaverhead County added 19 new cases in the past week, a considerable decrease over the prior week. Active cases were at 20, also a marked decline from prior weeks. There were 763 total cases counted, according to Montana’s COVID-19 tracking website. This week’s newest cases were mostly from residents in their 20s, followed by those in their 50s.

Barrett Hospital’s capacity, like other hospitals across the state, have steadily increased capacity with the declining case counts. Barrett Hospital had one COVID-19 patient as of Monday; it had four COVID-19 patients at the same time last week. The hospital has 14 open beds, according to the Monday statewide hospital capacity report.

Montana added 2,479 new cases and 44 deaths over the past week, passing 900 deaths and 80,000 total cases statewide. As of Tuesday, the state counted 80,426 total cases and 939 deaths.

State epidemiologists released a report on deaths caused by the coronavirus in the March to October 2020 period. The report looks at provisional COVID-19 death counts from death certificates. The data indicates COVID-19 may be the fourth-leading cause of death for residents in 2020. The other, most-common causes of death in the state for the past five years include heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, cerebrovascular disease and non-motor vehicle accidents. So far, the number of COVID-19 deaths through October was greater than the average number of influenza and pneumonia deaths each year since 2015.

COVID-19 deaths were more common when the individual had at least one underlying condition, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory diseases. The mortality rate from the disease increased with increasing age, and was higher among men than women. Deaths in American Indian and Alaskan Native residents were disproportionately higher from COVID-19 than white Montana residents. The numbers may change as more records are received and processed.

There have been more than 19 million COVID-19 cases and over 332,200 deaths counted nationwide as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.