Seventh county resident dies from COVID-19

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Mask up

A seventh Beaverhead County resident died of COVID-19 on Friday, public health officials say.

The latest death was from a woman in her 80s, who died in a Beaverhead County facility, Public Health Director Sue Hansen said. This is the fourth death of a county resident in the past two weeks from the virus.

“Public Health is saddened by the loss of several community members in the last few weeks due to COVID-19, and our hearts and prayers go out to all of the family and friends of these individuals,” Hansen said. “Public Health continues to strongly emphasize the importance of doing everything you can to help decrease the spread of COVID infection in our communities. Reconsider any gatherings over 10 people. The risk of spread increases as the number of people in a group increases. Celebrate the Holidays and enjoy the season, but please be extra vigilant through mask-wearing, social distancing, reduced group size, and frequent hand-washing.”

The county added 70 cases this week according to state of Montana data. As of Tuesday, Beaverhead had 691 total cases with 49 active. The majority of new cases are from residents in their 30s and 50s (14 and 13 cases, respectively), followed by those in their 20s.

The state’s COVID-19 count continues to lag behind local data. Public Health reported Monday there were 55 active cases and 703 total cases, with no current active hospitalizations.

Beaverhead County High School announced another one of its students tested positive for COVID-19 Saturday, and was last at school Friday. The student was in contact with other students and staff during the period of possible exposure.

Hansen reported at the board of health meeting Dec. 9 there have been outbreaks of COVID-19 at Pioneer Care and Rehabilitation and Legacy Assisted Living. Outbreaks are defined as one person testing positive in those facilities. The Legacy has had six total cases as of Dec. 9.

A number of cases have also occurred in Bicentennial Apartments residents, Hansen added. Though Bicentennial is not an assisted-living facility, it is home to a number of older individuals more likely to have worse outcomes when they catch the virus.

Montana added 4,694 new cases and 63 deaths in the past week. As of Tuesday, the statewide COVID-19 case total was 74,040 with 826 deaths. Tallies may be delayed due to a database update on Sunday that prevented the reporting of statewide case data, according to the DPHHS.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams visited Montana Dec. 10 to oversee the opening of a surge testing site at Fort Peck. He stressed Montanans’ use of masks has contributed to the decrease in daily cases reported and urged residents to comply. Daily new virus cases have been under 1,000 statewide in the last week.

“Montana has proven that these mitigation efforts work,” he said. “You have successfully – in the midst of cases going up around the country – been able to decrease your positivity rates.”

At that point, national COVID-19 daily new cases and deaths had hit records for nine weeks in a row.

Gov. Steve Bullock said Dec. 10 the state’s most recent data showed the positivity rate of COVID testing has decreased, going from 20 percent in November to around 14 percent in December. The average number of tests conducted has remained steady, indicating there are fewer new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the past two weeks.

Bullock noted case counts in Gallatin and Yellowstone counties have decreased by 38 percent and 36 percent, respectively, since Nov. 20, the day the statewide mask mandate was instituted.

Adams addressed misinformation claiming masks are dangerous. Adams, an anesthesiologist, said he has worn a mask most hours of the day of his adult life without adverse health effects.

“If rebreathing carbon dioxide through a mask was dangerous, you would have millions of brain-damaged surgeons and nurses all across the globe. It is just factually incorrect to think that you’re going to rebreathe a significant amount of carbon dioxide by wearing a mask, and it’s going to cause you harm,” he said.

As of Sunday, there were more than 16.1 million total COVID-19 cases nationwide, and more than 298,200 deaths.