MISSOULA — Missoula County researchers have been following the data on COVID-19 cases and provided an update on what trends they're seeing.
They said on Wednesday that cases appear to be stabilizing, but it's too soon to stop taking precautions.
Researcher Ethan Walker said the R value, or reproduction number of the virus, has stayed pretty steady since July.
"The R value has generally stayed close to one, indicating the spread of the virus has been relatively stable or even slowly dropping," Walker said.
He said people in their 20s across the state have the highest incident rate compared to other age groups.
"Younger individuals, although less likely to experience severe symptoms, they're still contracting the virus at a high rate, and they play a role in spreading the virus to others," Walker said.
That's why Walker says, as we head into fall with classes starting and flu season looming ahead, it's important for all ages to keep wearing face coverings and keeping a six-foot distance from others.
"We're about to encounter new challenges for the fall school year, and as we head into the cold and flu season," Walker said.
"We have to remember this is not a time to develop a false sense of security. To continue wearing masks, to continue practicing social distancing and keep the spread at a minimum as we encounter these new challenges."
Walker said if people become complacent, the trend could go back up.
Missoula City-County Health Department Performance Management & Quality Improvement Coordinator Kristie Scheel said last month most cases had a confirmed source.
"Close contacts continue to be identified, making up the vast majority of all cases reported in mid-July, dipping slightly than rising during that first half of August," she said.
"This is a really good indicator that we are conducting timely investigations and doing really solid contact tracing," Scheel added.
Statistics show that as of Aug. 18, 44% of active cases in Missoula County are non-traceable, meaning they were acquired from an unknown source and are not linked to travel or a confirmed case.
According to the same data, 42% of active cases are contacts to a confirmed case while 7% likely got sick from travel, and another 7% are under investigation, according to Scheel.
Sometimes the state and counties report different numbers of active cases.
But officials say in the coming weeks, counties will feed their case numbers directly to the state to limit those reporting discrepancies.
To find more of the research, go here.