MISSOULA — Epidemiological indicators are increasing, transmission rates are up, Missoula County is officially considered “advanced community spread,” and hospitals are noting an uptick in COVID cases.
In layman's terms, the pandemic isn’t over.
“Our daily incidence of new cases by a rolling seven-day average has gone up to 20, and about three weeks ago we were at three, so that is a significant upswing,” Missoula City-County Health Officer D’Shane Barnett told a virtual crowd Wednesday morning.
The numbers tell a similar story to where we were a year ago, but according to local officials, there’s one key difference this time around, and that difference could save lives.
“The difference is, at the beginning of this pandemic we did not have a vaccine and today we do,” said Mayor John Engen.
Missoula County continues leading the state in vaccination numbers. In fact, just last week, the average number of vaccinations at the health department’s clinic doubled from the week prior.
This momentum is pushing Missoula County closer to herd immunity, but just because the county leads the state in vaccines, doesn’t mean the vaccine is being taken advantage like it could be.
“We have 61% of the eligible population fully vaccinated, and 54% of the entire community is now fully vaccinated,” said Barnett. “Our goal is to have 75% of the full community fully vaccinated.”
With the new and highly contagious Delta variant, officials are pleading with those unvaccinated individuals to step up -- if not for themselves, for the healthcare system as it risks overcrowding.
“If you're not vaccinated and you get the Delta variant, there's a really high likelihood that you're going to get very sick, so you have every reason, in terms of self-preservation, to just suck it up and get vaccinated,” said Missoula County commissioner Josh Slotnick.
“Even though some people may become positive, they are either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and what we're really trying to do is keep people out of the hospital, and then those who need to be hospitalized, keep them from being intubated and keep them from dying, and the vaccines are still absolutely our best tool at accomplishing that." - Missoula City-County Health Officer D’Shane Barnett
With a daily vaccine clinic and a mobile clinic, the health department is going out of its way to make it easier to get vaccinated than not to get vaccinated.
They hope the courtesy is reciprocated.
“It's up to you and we need your help,” said Engen.
The Montana COVID-19 tracking website shows there have been 9,761 cases confirmed in Missoula County including 9,480 recoveries and 101 deaths. There were 180 active cases as of Wednesday.