MISSOULA — Missoula County has reported two COVID-19 cases with a variant, known as the California variant.
Cases are increasing again and officials say we're moving "in the wrong direction."
But vaccinations are still bringing us one step closer to “normal” with each passing week.
"We're in a race right now," said Missoula Health Officer Ellen Leahy who confirmed that the county will open vaccinations to more people on Sunday.
"We will be opening early, earlier than the governor's initial date so that everyone 16 and up who wants to take the vaccine can do that," Leahy told MTN News.
Leahy said we're so close that we can't lose ground now, "we will be able to pull out of this."
But some new roadblocks have emerged in recent days.
"We have reversed course, in the direction that cases are going. For two months we've been going down, with a few upticks, and we are now back on the rise."
All of these factors will play into what COVID-19 rules will be in place this summer.
The Board of Health will lift event restrictions when 600/1,000 Missoula County residents get a shot of the vaccine. As of Tuesday, the metric was at 504/1,000.
"If we can just hold out a little longer while we get more vaccines out there, we can avoid another spike of this," Leahy said.
Whenever the restrictions are lifted, people will be able to gather in groups of any size, with mask-wearing as the only requirement.
Leahy says we'll likely get there before mid-April, and opening vaccines up to younger people will move that along.
"That is going to help the whole community," Leahy noted.
The first public clinic under the new open guidelines will be the MCCHD clinic on Sunday at the former Lucky’s Market at Southgate Mall.
Information about how to sign up for vaccinations can be found at covid19.missoula.co and by calling 406-258-INFO.
The Montana COVID-19 tracking map shows 50,330 vaccine doses have been administered in Missoula County and 17,994 people are fully immunized.
A total of 8,604 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Missoula County including 8,380 recoveries and 89 COVID-19 related deaths.