MISSOULA - Missoula County moved into the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s high COVID-19 risk level.
The CDC recommends the following when the community level is high:
- Wear a mask indoors in public
- Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines
- Get tested if you have symptoms
- Additional precautions may be needed for people at high risk for severe illness
The Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) reports that while local cases have remained high for several weeks, hospitalizations in the past several days have matched levels not seen since February 2022.
According to MCCHD, local hospitals are reporting large numbers of staff are currently out due to testing positive for COVID-19 themselves.
“We have a perfect storm of highly infectious subvariants, little to no COVID precautions being taken, and waning immunity among individuals who were among the first to be vaccinated and boosted,” explained Health Officer D’Shane Barnett.
MCCHD notes that this week, approximately 3% of Missoula County’s population became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines after the CDC gave final approval to the 6-month to 5-year age group. Parents and guardians are being encouraged by the health department to get young children protected and boosted against COVID-19.
Missoula Public Health officials also say the community could get even more protection if more adults would get their initial series and boosters.
“Missoula County is the most vaccinated county in Montana as far as COVID-19 goes, but we could still be doing better. Roughly 25% of Missoula County’s population, about 34,000 people, remain unvaccinated against COVID-19. Another 6.8% only received one dose of vaccine, that’s over 8,100 people. An additional 30% of Missoula County residents, just over 36,000, got their initial vaccine series, but no booster dose. If you’ve been delaying, now is the time to get your vaccine,” said Barnett.
Individuals who fit the following criteria are either eligible for one or two boosters:
- Boosters are approved for ages five and older, five months after finishing the primary series of vaccine.
- Individuals ages 50 and older, 12 and older who are immunocompromised and individuals who have had two J&J shots are eligible for second boosters four months after their last booster.
MCCHD encourages residents to seek COVID-19 testing as quickly as possible if they start to experience COVID-19 symptoms because COVID-19 therapeutics — Paxlovid and Mulnupiravir — must be taken within five days of symptoms onset.
“Do not brush those symptoms off as a cold. It’s better to know right away and seek treatment,” Barnett continued, “We’ve been hearing reports of folks feeling fine during their first few days of COVID, then taking a turn for the worst after they have passed the eligibility window for therapeutics. Therapeutics are one of the strongest tools we have to prevent hospitalizations. Residents should be seeking them out if they test positive.”
MCCHD states residents should be aware of the following for therapeutics:
- If residents cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons or because their body can’t mount an appropriate immune response to vaccines, they may still be protected with COVID therapeutics.
- Paxlovid and Molnupiravir are oral therapeutics available at some pharmacies in Missoula County. These have been found to be effective against Omicron subvariants and sublineages. These can be used in children and adults who weigh at least 88 pounds, test positive for COVID-19, have mild to moderate symptoms, and are at high risk for progressing to severe disease. These therapeutics must be started within five days of a patient experiencing symptoms.
- Residents can go to covid.gov and put in their zip code to find a test-to-treat site near them.
Vaccine appointments, the therapeutics finder tool, and COVID-19 testing locations can all be found on missoulainfo.com.
“Preserving hospital capacity remains the top priority and it is something we watch closely.” Barnett continued, “We encourage the community to be mindful and work together to lower the stress on our hospitals and their staff.”
Missoula Public Health also recommends that individuals wear high-filtration masks, such as KN95s, KF94s, or N95s in crowded indoor settings while the community remains in the high COVID-19 risk category.
The latest data from MCCHD shows 393 active cases and 211 COVID-19 related deaths. The positivity rate is 16.73% and average daily cases are 42.2. There have been 29,106 total COVID-19 cases reported to date in Missoula County including 28,502 recoveries.