Officials address trends as COVID-19 spikes in Missoula County

Posted at 9:59 PM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 13:05:19-04

MISSOULA — Missoula County health officials held a press conference on Thursday updating the public on some of the recent spikes in COVID-19 numbers.

Officials say they are concerned about some of the trends they are seeing. "We are at a precarious point of being able to slow the numbers," Missoula County Health Officer Ellen Leahy said.

The state of Montana and Missoula County saw a record number increase in COVID-19 cases on Thursday.

"If you are having symptoms, you need to get tested," Missoula County COVID-19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr said.

Additionally, six of the total nine total deaths in Missoula County have occurred in the past 15 days.

Health officials also broke down the numbers on Thursday, saying more older people are getting sick, hospitalized, and dying.

The outbreak comes ahead of flu season, winter weather driving people indoors, and holiday travel.

"Right now Montana has one of the highest rates of transmission and case rates of any state," Farr said.

In the past three weeks, cases in people aged 60 or older, have gone up by 300% in Missoula County.

"As a result, this increase in the 60-or-older age group, we're seeing more COVID related hospitalizations," MCCHD COVID-19 Situation Unit Leader Kristie Scheel said.

Active hospitalizations have tripled in the past few weeks with health officials noting that since August the number of COVID-related hospitalizations locally has more than doubled.

Scheel says that could lead to more deaths, "this is obviously a really concerning trend."

One positive note is that Missoula County has a lower incident rate than the rest of the state. That rate is about 36, while the statewide incident rate is around 60.

Researcher Ethan Smith says to keep in mind that these numbers are not written in stone.

"It's important that we're not getting complacent at a time like this," Smith said. "We'll emphasize numerous times today how we're going into the winter season where there's more indoor interaction, we're going into cold and flu season. These numbers can change in a hurry."

Leahy said Thursday she is not aware of any upcoming restrictions to travel but encourages everyone to continue best practices. She adds if you are planning anything for Halloween, try to keep group activities to people from three households or less.

The Missoula City-County Health Department says it has recently closed about seven businesses for not complying with COVID-19 safety measures.

Click hereto view Thursday's presentation materials.