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COVID-19 cases rising in Missoula County, hospitalizations remain low

Missoula Health Department
Posted at 3:02 PM, May 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 17:05:02-04

MISSOULA – Local health officials report Missoula County is seeing a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

The Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) notes over 200 active cases were being reported on Tuesday. Additionally, the seven-day daily average of new cases per 100,000 people has increased over the past two weeks from 10 per 100,000 on May 3 to 20 per 100,000 on Tuesday.

“When you couple highly infectious subvariants and sub-lineages with a relaxed public attitude toward COVID you’re bound to see increases in cases,” explained Missoula Health Officer D’Shane Barnett.

A variety of Omicron subvariants and sub-lineages are contributing to an increase in cases, a news release states. The highly infectious Omicron subvariant BA.2 is currently the dominant variant nationwide.

MCCHD reports the latest genetic sequencing results from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) — published on April 29 — indicated Omicron variants made up 99% of Montana’s COVID-19 cases.

MCCHD noted that while the US Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) COVID-19 Community Level for Missoula County remains low, many key COVID-19 indicators being monitored as early alert signals for a changing COVID-19 situation have moved to yellow status.

“When we move a key indicator to yellow, it means that we are doing worse than the week before. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re bad overall,” Barnett explained. “For example, as of May 11, the transmission rate of COVID is 1.15. That means each COVID-positive individual is infecting more than one person on average. When that number is above one, cases are increasing, when it is below one, cases are decreasing.”

Missoula Public Health will still move forward with plans to end COVID-19 testing services at the West Broadway clinic after Thursday, May 19. COVID-19 vaccine appointments will continue to be offered by appointment at the MCCHD’s immunization clinic at 301 West Alder Street.

“Preserving hospital capacity remains the top priority and it is something we watch closely. Thankfully, we have the tools available to prevent the worst outcomes of COVID-19. The federal government just allowed households to order a third batch of COVID-19 tests. Tests also remain available at several pharmacies and walk-in clinics. Vaccines and boosters are one of the strongest tools to prevent severe hospitalization and death. Vaccines remain available at pharmacies across our community. Lastly, if individuals test positive for COVID-19, they are encouraged to reach out to their provider to see if they would be a good candidate for Paxlovid or Molnupiravir. These COVID-19 therapeutics can help prevent severe illness and death in vulnerable individuals. They are most effective when taken within five days of symptom onset.” - Missoula Health Officer D’Shane Barnett

MCCHD is also recommending that people who are particularly vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID-19 consider wearing high-filtration masks, such as KN95s, KF94s, or N95s in crowded indoor settings.

The latest Missoula County COVID-19 information can be found at https://www.missoulainfo.com/.