Officials address surge in COVID cases in Cascade County

Posted at 1:15 PM, Oct 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-17 15:15:16-04

At a news conference on Friday afternoon, officials from Alluvion Health, Benefis Health System, the Cascade City-County Health Department, Great Falls Public School District, Malmstrom Air Force Base, and other organizations addressed the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Cascade County and around the state.

“I think we’re considering all kinds of restrictions at this point,” said Cascade City-County Health Officer Trisha Gardner. “We are not looking at a shutdown like we had back in March, but we are looking for different ways to be able to keep this under control.”

Gardner noted that Cascade County has reported a total of 1,308 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date, and added that the CCHD fields hundreds of COVID-19-related questions every day. Some of the restrictions being considered include lowering capacities for bars and restaurants, and rules on gatherings, but nothing official has been decided as of Friday.

As for schools in Great Falls, Superintendent Tom Moore reinforced the district’s plan to remain open for in-person learning as long as possible.

“In conjunction with the advice from all of our health officials, we’re going to keep schools open as long as we can. As long as it is safe and manageable to do so,” Moore said. “The highest number of COVID positive cases we’ve seen to date was 31, and that was on October 2nd. Today (10/16), we have 21 active cases to date is 101. Currently we have about 300 individuals that are quarantined.”

Another health official that took the podium was Benefis Health System Director for Emergency Services & Critical Care, Kevin Langkiet. He addressed the stress that hospitals in the area are currently under, and asked the public for their help. “There’s more people coming in than are leaving. It is getting bigger and bigger, and it is putting a burden. We’re working through it, we’re being very conscious and working throughout the state,” he said. “That is my biggest plea for everybody, that we’re maintaining and we’re doing our job, but we’re getting stressed, and we need some help, and that help is to stay home, wash your hands, wear your mask, and social distance whenever possible.”

Dr. Raymond Geyer, who’s an infectious disease specialist at the Great Falls Clinic, said that although it is true that people who are over the age of 70 and/or overweight are at the highest risk from COVID-19, he and his colleagues working in healthcare have seen perfectly healthy people respond poorly to contracting COVID-19.

Officials from Malmstrom Air Force Base, the City of Great Falls and others also spoke, and their messages were similar: slowing the spread of Coronavirus is a community effort, from wearing masks, to social distancing, to staying home if you feel sick.

There were 665 new cases and five new deaths added to the total on the Montana COVID-19 tracking site on Friday morning. The data below is from the official Montana website on October 16:

  • TOTAL CASES & RECOVERIES: There have been 21,595 cumulative cases statewide, with 13,212 people recovered.
  • HOSPITALIZATIONS: There are 319 current hospitalizations, and a cumulative total of 986 hospitalizations.
  • DEATHS: The cumulative number of deaths in Montana is at 235.
  • ACTIVE CASES: The state reports there are currently 8,148 active COVID-19 cases in Montana.
  • TESTING: There were 5,630 completed tests, for a new cumulative state-wide total of 425,462.

It's important to note that not every person who tests positive actually becomes ill or exhibits symptoms. Many do not; of those who do become sick, some experience mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization. Others, however, do require hospitalization, as noted in the daily update on the number of people hospitalized. However, every person who does test positive for COVID-19 has the potential to spread the virus to other people, including family members and friends, which is why public health officials continue to encourage everyone to wear a mask and maintain at least the recommended six feet of "social distance" when in public.

You can watch Friday's entire news conference here: