Cascade County adds 12 COVID-19 related deaths; cases continue to rise; GFPS seeing uptick; health board meets Oct. 28 to discuss additional restrictions
Cascade County added 88 more COVID-19 cases on Oct. 27, bringing the county’s total to 1,821.
Of those, 939 are currently active, according to the state map.
On Oct. 27, the Cascade County City-County Health Department announced 12 more COVID-19 related deaths in the county since Oct. 15, bringing the county total to 26.
These individuals were:
- 1 male in his 30s
- 1 female in her 60s
- 1 male in his 60s
- 3 males in their 70s
- 2 females in their 80s
- 2 males in their 80s
- 2 females in their 90s
Every individual had underlying conditions, according to CCHD.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the loved ones of these individuals. COVID-19 has many victims beyond the official number of deaths: those who die, but also those they leave behind. We urge everyone in our community to consider the widespread toll this disease takes, and to employ every preventative measure available to them in order to protect our families, friends, neighbors, schools, and businesses. The minor inconvenience caused by wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing, and staying home when sick is far outweighed by the potential benefits to the people around us,” Trisha Gardner, county health officer, said in a release.
The Cascade County City-County Board of Health is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Oct. 28 via Zoom for another special meeting to discuss possible additional restrictions related to COVID-19.
According to the county, “the Board of Health will not conduct a question and answer session. Prior to voting on any motion the Board of Health may make, the public will have an opportunity to provide comment.”
Great Falls Public Schools Superintendent Tom Moore, a Board of Health member, said during the Oct. 26 school board meeting that among the options being considered are reducing capacity in restaurants and bars from the current 75 percent to 50 percent and reducing gathering sizes to no more than 25.
On Oct. 27, the Missoula City-County Health Department announced it was imposing new restrictions beginning Thursday that limit businesses to 50 percent capacity, groups limited to 25 people, alcohol service stops at 10 p.m. and residents are asked to stay home voluntarily, according to the Missoulian.
As of Oct. 27, Missoula County had 2,155 total cases and of those, 749 were active, according to the state map.
Schools would be exempt from those restrictions since officials have said they haven’t been the problem area but the numbers within GFPS are also increasing, Moore said during Monday’s school board meeting.
As of Oct. 26, he said there were 41 active cases with 411 people quarantined within the district.
He said they believe the uptick could be associated with the long weekend earlier this month for the teacher convention Oct. 15-16 when people aren’t as diligent in their mask usage or distancing as they are within the school setting.
Moore said there was a spike a few weeks after the Labor Day holiday and there’s some speculation within the district that they’ll see another spike now after the teacher convention weekend.
He said that the positive cases in the district aren’t coming from the school environment, but activities outside of the classroom.
During an Oct. 27 press conference with Gov. Steve Bullock, the state’s lead epidemiologist Stacey Anderson, said that there were more than 4,000 positive COVID-19 cases reported statewide last week, a 17 percent increase over the previous week.
Statewide, the total is now 29,346, according to the state map. Of those, 10,060 cases are active. Statewide, there have been 305 COVID-19 related deaths, 26 of which have been Cascade County residents, according to Cascade County City-County Health Department.
Anderson said that for Halloween, they’re recommending that no one hold large parties, stay home if sick or under quarantine as a contact of a positive case, and to wear masks and distance while trick or treating.
CCHD has said that their guidance for Halloween is to follow the Bullock’s existing directives and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At this time, the county hasn’t issued more restrictive local measures, but that may change after Wednesday’s health board meeting.
On Oct. 27, Sheriff Jesse Slaughter conducted a Facebook live video from home since he’s quarantined related to COVID-19 and said that there are currently 15 active cases on the state prison side but none left in the county jail side. He said there are more than 250 inmates and staff recovered within the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office.
Local officials have been saying for several weeks now that local medical facilities are full and are asking the public to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 to relieve the strain on healthcare providers.
As of Oct. 26, according to state data, Benefis had 62 COVID-19 patients and 138 non-COVID, leaving 40 available beds. The ICU is full with 17 COVID-19 patients and four non-COVID. There are 15 COVID patients on ventilators and one non-COVID patient, leaving 10 ventilators available.
The four COVID-19 beds available at the Great Falls Clinic are full.
Funds available for COVID-19 relief
A private family foundation has donated $50,000 to United Way of Cascade County’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to be given as $500 checks to 100 local individuals and families impacted by the coronavirus and economic slowdown that followed.
The foundation, which chooses to stay anonymous, will donate another $50,000 if the community donates a matching amount, which would help a total of 300 households in Cascade County.
Called Essential Funds for Essential Needs, the program is open to anyone living in Cascade County who can demonstrate direct financial hardship due to the current pandemic-related economic conditions. There isn’t an income threshold, but applications will be weighted to prioritize families with children under age 18, minority households and essential workers.
While many government programs limit what assistance can be spent on, these private dollars can be spent on families’ greatest needs.
Applications must be dropped off by 4 p.m. Nov. 6, at a secure drop box located at Opportunities Inc., 905 1st Ave. N. Anyone with extenuating circumstances who cannot drop off their application, can call 868-0004.
Opportunities Inc. staff will review all applications before drawing 100 names to be awarded $500. People will be notified if they are to receive the money, which will be given out by Dec. 1.
“We’re calling this program Essential Funds for Essential Needs because our community has many critical needs that aren’t being met right now,” United Way President Gary Owen said in a release. “Many families are struggling, many have seen their paychecks and savings shrink since March. This donation will help 100 families, but we know many more are in need.”
Opportunities Inc. Executive Director Karla Seaman has seen how COVID-19 has impacted Cascade County families as more people are coming in the nonprofits’ doors seeking help paying for food, rent and utilities.
“Many families, particularly essential workers, are struggling to pay increased costs for food and childcare. Others have lost wages while in quarantine. Rent bills that were temporarily on hold are coming due,” she said in a release.
Owen hopes community support will open the doors to hundreds more families being awarded Essential Funds for Essential Needs dollars. The private family foundation is covering all administration costs, so every donated dollar will go to people in need.
Anyone who wants to donate to the Essential Needs for Essential Needs program can go to www.uwccmt.org or can send money to United Way at P.O. Box 1343, Great Falls, 59403.