BUTTE — The Butte-Silver Bow confirmed on Monday six additional COVID-19-related deaths.
All six deaths are associated with residents of The Springs at Butte assisted living facility. With the most recent deaths, Butte-Silver Bow has seen 47 fatalities overall, related to COVID-19.
Officials also said the county's COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan has launched - Along with some of its Butte-Silver Bow Unified Health Command partners, the county Health Department is working on a COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan, with a focus on three initial phases – phases 1A, 1B and 1C.
Health Officer Karen Sullivan said Monday that phase 1A is underway, with frontline healthcare workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities as the focus of receiving the vaccine.
Unified Health Command partners include the Health Department, St. James Healthcare, Southwest Montana Community Health Center, and the North American Indian Alliance. All are registered with the state as providers in the distribution of the vaccine. Representatives of each entity are meeting at least weekly to further develop the local distribution plan.
St. James is distributing both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna versions of the COVID-19 vaccine, while the Health Department, Community Health Center and NAIA are distributing the Moderna product. Phase 1A should continue through Feb. 26, Sullivan said.
Phase 1B should begin on or about Jan. 15 and continue through March 15. Recipients of this phase include people ages 75 and older; individuals residing in congregate care and correctional facilities; and American Indians and other people of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications.
Phase 1B also includes frontline essential workers. Sullivan said these workers include first responders; education and childcare workers; IT, energy workers and federal employees associated with critical infrastructure; food and agriculture workers; manufacturing employees; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service employees; public transit workers; grocery store employees; child and adult protective service workers who are at risk for exposure; and inspectors of congregate care facilities and similar settings.
Phase 1C would begin on or about March 15 and extend through about July 15. Vaccine recipients in this stage will include people ages 65 and older and people ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions.
(The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not designated for pediatric populations. The Pfizer product may be distributed to those 16 and older, while the Moderna vaccine may be distributed to those 18 and older.)
Other recipients in Phase 1C include workers in the following sectors – transportation/logistics; food service; shelter, housing, and construction; finance; IT and communication; energy; legal; media; public safety; water and wastewater; and essential government personnel.
Phase 2 would follow, beginning in July 2021. This ongoing effort would target all remaining Montanans ages 16 or older.
Sullivan said sites for vaccine administration are still being developed, but generally will include St. James, smaller hospitals in Southwestern Montana, the Health Department, the community health center, the NAIA, and retail pharmacies.
The Health Department also on Monday issued its weekly data report. As of Sunday, Dec. 27, the department was reporting 2,934 positive cases in the county, since the county was informed of its first case on March 13. Of those, 2,793 have recovered, and 94 cases remain active.
For the week of Dec. 19-25, the Health Department reports 117 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, down 37 cases from the previous week, when 154 new cases were reported.
“Moving into the new year, we are trending down, and that’s where we want to continue,” Sullivan said. Daily average cases for the week of Dec. 19-25 was 17, down from the previous week’s daily average cases of 22. Cases per 100,000 population for the week of Dec. 19-25 was 48, down from 63 the previous week. Sullivan said cases per 100,000 should be at 25 or below.
For the 117 newly confirmed cases during the week, 211 close contacts were identified. “This averages to fewer than two contacts per case – this limiting of contacts by residents is helping in a big way, as is the hard work by merchants and operators to limit capacity, close early and manage the wearing of face coverings by their customers,” Sullivan said.
For the time period of Dec. 10- to Dec. 16, the county’s test positivity rate was 13.40%. Sullivan said the Health Department continues to strive for a positivity rate of 5% or lower.