New COVID cases spike in state, omicron variant widespread

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The last week has put an end to low COVID-19 case counts in Montana.

The state added 6,840 new COVID cases and 16 deaths in the past week, with triple-digit new daily cases registered in several counties. There were almost 2,000 new cases recorded Monday statewide. Montana had 206,295 total cases and 2,927 deaths recorded from COVID, as of Tuesday.

The latest surge in cases is likely due to the newest virus variant, omicron, which has been detected in 22 counties as of Dec. 31, according to a weekly report by the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. Those counties include Beaverhead, Blaine, Cascade, Chouteau, Deer Lodge, Fergus, Flathead, Gallatin, Glacier, Hill, Jefferson, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Musselshell, Mineral, Missoula, Pondera, Powell, Silver Bow, Teton, Wibaux and Yellowstone counties. The omicron variant is more easily transmitted between people. It so far appears milder with symptoms than other COVID variants, but the sheer number of cases is overwhelming hospitals nationwide.

Statewide hospitalizations have remained steady. Barrett Hospital was 28% full and had no COVID patients hospitalized, according to the most recent state report. Facilities in Carter, Musselshell and Yellowstone counties were reporting over 90% full; hospitals in Cascade and Lewis and Clark counties reported 100% full.

As of Dec. 31, 81% of hospitalizations and 75% of deaths have been in unvaccinated individuals, according to the DPHHS report. Montana is 53% vaccinated overall.

Beaverhead County added 45 cases in the past week, in people aged 0-79. The most new cases were recorded in people in their 30s, followed by people in their 20s and 40s. As of Tuesday, the county tallied 1,670 total cases, with 45 of those active. The county remained at 55% vaccinated.

There have been more than 60.2 million COVID cases and over 835,300 deaths nationwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. lists a 62.6% vaccination rate.