COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expanding to all 16 and older April 1; state finds COVID-19 as third leading cause of death for 2020

COVID-19 vaccines will be available to all Montanans 16 and older beginning April 1, Gov. Greg Gianforte said during a March 16 press conference.

Cascade County is opening the next round of vaccine appointments open 9 a.m. March 18 for those in Phase 1B+, which includes anyone 60 or older and, those 16 and older with certain underlying conditions from Phase 1B and has expanded to those 16-59 with the following conditions:

Next round of vaccination appointments opens March 18

  • Asthma (moderate to severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Immuno-compromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurological conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)

Cascade County meets case rate requirement for one week, one week to go

As of March 15, there have been 25,055 total vaccine doses administered in the county, according to the state map, and 9,425 people have been fully vaccinated.

Those who were eligible in phases 1A and 1B are still eligible to sign up for an appointment.

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Appointments can be booked on the online portal for the following vaccination clinics at Montana ExpoPark’s Family Living Center, 400 3rd St. N.W.:

  • March 22 – 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • March 24 – 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • March 26 – 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • March 29 – 2 p.m. to 6:10 p.m.
  • March 31 – 2 p.m. to 6:10 p.m.
  • April 2 – 2 p.m. to 6:10 p.m.

The state map posted 308 new cases to Cascade County on March 16, but only one of those was current, according to the Cascade County City-County Health Department. The spike in cases on the state dashboard is due to a reporting error by a local healthcare provider and 307 of those won’t be included when the weekly case rate is calculated on March 17.

County reports backlog of case reporting, won’t affect this week’s case rate calculation

According to CCHD, there were no new cases on March 14, 17 new cases on March 13 and only nine new cases on March 15 or the 74 that posted to the state website.

If the county case rate holds at 10 or less per 100,000 on March 17, the local mask requirement and event size restrictions will be lifted. The local board of health is not scheduled to meet this week and their next regular meeting is the first Wednesday of April.

On March 16, the Montana Department of Health and Human Services released a report that states the death rate among Montana residents increased 14 percent in 2020 compared with the previous 5-year average.

COVID-19 is the main reason for the increase, according to DPHHS.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the health and daily lives of Montanans,” DPHHS Director Adam Meier said in a release. “Our hearts go out to all those who have lost a loved one over the past year as we approach the anniversary of the state’s first COVID-19 related death. This report illustrates how this has impacted Montanans all across the state.”

Nearly 75 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Montana are those age 70 and older and nearly 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths had at least one underlying medical condition, according to DPHHS. Native Americans make up about 7 percent of Montana’s population, but represent 18 percent of reported COVID-19-related deaths in the state, according to DPHHS.

COVID-19 was the 3rd leading cause of death in 2020 with 1,104 deaths in Montana, with the first occurring March 26, 2020.

County opens vaccines to those 16-69 with certain conditions

In Cascade County, there have been 150 COVID-19 related deaths, according to state data.

According to the DPHHS report, there were 12,018 deaths reported in 2020, an increase over the average of 10,086 from 2015 to 2019.

“Provisional data on vital events, such as births and deaths, indicate that 2020 was the first year since records started in 1908 in which the number of deaths exceeded the number of births, including 12,018 deaths and 10,791 births,” according to DPHHS.

Heart disease and cancer were the first and second leading causes of death in 2020 and 2015 through 2019, accounting for about 40 percent of all deaths. Deaths due to chronic liver disease and homicide were significantly higher in 2020 compared with 2015 to 2019, according to DPHHS.

COVID-19 restrictions remain in place in Cascade County; health board meets again Jan. 20 to review restrictions; 19 more COVID-19 deaths in county

Deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease and influenza and pneumonia were lower in 2020 compared with 2015 through 2019, according to DPHHS, and state officials credit that to the lower flu activity nationwide, which coincide with COVID-19 mitigation.

“The cause of death recorded on a death certificate is determined by a physician, advanced practice nurse, or coroner and is reported to DPHHS. Information on deaths occurring in a calendar year are usually not finalized until mid-year the following year. Less than 2 percent of death certificates have incomplete information, which may impact the categorization of a small number of deaths,” according to DPHHS.