BUTTE — The Butte-Silver Bow Health Department reported two further deaths at Continental Care & Rehabilitation, bringing to 12 the number of deaths in connection with the skilled nursing facility's COVID-19 outbreak.
A total of 38 residents and 19 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Health Department press release.
As of early Monday evening, Nov. 9, Butte-Silver Bow was reporting 1,064 cases of COVID-19 in the county, since the Health Department was notified of the county’s first case on March 13. That is an increase of 119 cases over the previous 73-hour period.
Butte-Silver Bow Health Officer Karen Sullivan said several metrics followed by the Health Department to assist in decision-making are indicating that Butte-Silver Bow is facing its most challenging time to date with the virus.
“With 12 fatalities and an active-case count of more than 300 active cases, we are heading in the wrong, wrong direction,” she said.
During the week of Oct. 31-Nov. 6, Butte-Silver Bow sustained 190 positive cases, the highest weekly count to date. The county is now seeing, on average, 29 new cases per day, and 84 cases per 100,000 population.
Sullivan said that metric – cases per 100,000 population – puts Butte-Silver Bow ahead of Yellowstone, Missoula, Lewis & Clark, and Deer Lodge counties.
“An incidence rate of more than 25 cases per 100,000 population has been identified by the Harvard Global Health Institute as being in the red zone risk level,” Sullivan said. “We are in the red zone, and then some.”
Sullivan also said the county has a positivity rate of 19.60% – any percentage above 10.00% is also in the red zone risk level, as defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“That particular metric means that almost one in five people being tested in Butte-Silver Bow are positive with the virus,” she said.
Sullivan added that the number of identified close contacts placed in quarantine also continues to increase in the county.
For the week of Oct. 30-Nov. 6, the Health Department determined that 693 individuals were close contacts who needed to be quarantined and tested.
“This means that our cautions against groups gathering, against activities that attract crowds, the need for people to distance, just aren’t resonating with a segment of our population,” Sullivan said.
The health officer said that part of her job is to keep students in in-classroom learning environments, at the K-12 and university levels.
She said it is also her responsibility to work with other healthcare entities in the county to prevent a surge at clinics and St. James Healthcare.
“We absolutely cannot have our hospital inpatient side and ICU side overrun,” Sullivan said.
A news conference will be conducted on Tuesday from the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse rotunda. Sullivan said she will be issuing orders that will detail new restrictions in the county.
“We are sincerely hoping that a formal limit on groups and activities will help us steer our numbers in a new direction,” she said.