Delta variant confirmed in Cascade County

The Delta variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Cascade County.

Trisha Gardner, county health officer, told the Board of Health during their July 7 regular meeting that the first Delta variant case was confirmed by the state lab this morning in one of the workplace clusters that county health officials are tracking.

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“It is officially here in Great Falls,” Gardner said, and that might result in more new cases in the coming weeks.

The New York Times reported this week that the Delta variant is now the dominant variant in the U.S. and highly contagious amongst the unvaccinated, but the vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalization and death if a person still gets sick.

There are a couple of workplace clusters in the county, Gardner told The Electric. One has 13 active cases currently and she was checking the on the other.

In those clusters, there have been a large number of contacts, so “the potential for growth is there for quite a few new cases,” she told The Electric.

The county added 17 new cases on July 7, bringing the cumulative total to 9,555 and of those, there are 55 active cases, according to the state map.

Over the last week, the county added 42 new cases, and of those, Gardner said 28 were ages 20-29.

The case rate has dropped to 7.4 per 100,000, according to the Cascade County City-County Health Department, as of July 7, with a 5.2 percent positivity rate as of June 28.

As of July 5, there had been 58,152 vaccine doses administered in the county and 29,105 people, or 42 percent of the 68,949 eligible, are fully immunized.

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Fully immunized means two weeks have elapsed since the persons final dose of the vaccine course.

To date, there have been 30 breakthrough cases in the county, meaning a person who is fully vaccinated contracted COVID, according to CCHD. There were six new breakthrough cases over the last week and one new variant case.

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Of those, two were hospitalized and one died, according to CCHD.

Gardner and Dr. Ray Geyer, infectious disease doctor at the Great Falls Clinic, said that the number of breakthrough cases is very low and that most of them had mild cases.

“They remain rare, which is good,” Geyer said of breakthrough cases.

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Most of them were people in the 20-40 age bracket and the majority of new cases over the last week were 20-29 year olds who weren’t vaccinated, Gardner said.

The state has not updated its list of variants of concern since June 24, when six variant types were identified, excluding the Delta variant, which has been identified in several other Montana counties.