COVID rate increasing in Cascade County, 222 cases active

Cascade County added 159 new COVID-19 cases over the last week and now has 222 active cases, the highest number of active cases statewide, according to the state dashboard.

That brings the county’s total of cases since March 2020 to 9,085 with 169 deaths.

The county’s new case rate is 28 per 100,000, meaning the average number of new cases for the last seven days, according to the Cascade County City-County Health Department.

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Trisha Gardner, county health officer, told The Electric that “we’re seeing workplace outbreaks” due to people going to work while sick or not admitting to other events or activities where there was COVID exposure.

She said many of the new cases have been in the 20-40 year old bracket, while cases among those 50 and older have declined.

Gardner said fewer people 20-40 are getting vaccinated.

She said that of the total 28,935 doses administered by CCHD and the community clinics, 64 percent of those went to people 50 and older.

That makes sense to a degree, Gardner said, since the focus for vaccination began with the most vulnerable, but that her department is shifting focus to get more younger people vaccinated.

Beginning next week, the Pfizer vaccine will be available to people 12-15 in Cascade County, she said.

The case rate has increased every week since April 14 when it was 8 per 100,000. The last time the county’s case rate was this high was mid-January.

On March 17, the county lifted all COVID-19 related restrictions when the case rate had dropped below 10 per 100,000 for two consecutive week.

This week’s positivity rate is seven percent.

As of May 12, there were 16 active COVID cases associated with Great Falls Public Schools.

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Gardner said that CCHD is monitoring the COVID numbers and meets regularly with County Commissioners since recent state law changes shifted authority for implementing pandemic prevention and control measures from the health officer and board of health to county commissions.

She said that as of May 12, there have been no confirmed flu cases in Cascade County and testing has been operating normally.

As of May 10, there had been 50,691 total COVID vaccination doses given in Cascade County and 24,276 people were fully immunized in the county, according to the state dashboard.

According to data from the state’s COVID-19 hospital occupancy and capacity report, which was last updated May 10, Benefis Health System is nearly at capacity with 214 non-COVID patients, eight COVID patients, leaving 18 beds available.

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The report doesn’t offer further details on the types of conditions driving the high number of non-COVID patients currently hospitalized at Benefis, but The Electric has asked both Benefis and CCHD if there is something in particular driving that increase.

At Benefis, there are 16 non-COVID patients and three COVID patients in the ICU, leaving two beds available, according to the state data.

So far, have been 12 variant cases confirmed in Cascade County. Of those, six have been the B-117, or U.K., variant. Two were the New York variant, four were California variants.

There are 16 total to date breakthrough cases, meaning people who were fully vaccinated contracted COVID, according to CCHD.