COVID cases continuing to rise in Cascade County
Cascade County added 118 new COVID-19 cases over the last week, bringing the total to 9,845, of which 160 are currently active.
Six new variant cases were confirmed in the county over the last week, all Delta, according to the Cascade County City-County Health Department, bringing to total of variant cases to 101.
Of the new cases, 100, or 84.7 percent, were among the unvaccinated, according to CCHD.
The state lab, operated by the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, is performing genetic sequencing on positive COVID-19 tests to determine if its a variant and which type of variant. CCHD has said that typically samples from breakthrough cases and those who are hospitalized are sent to the state lab for sequencing and a number of other positive tests are as well, depending on criteria set by the state.
There were another 18 breakthrough cases over the week, bringing the total to 67.
Breakthrough cases are those in which a fully vaccinated person contracts COVID-19. Fully vaccinated means two weeks have elapsed since the person completed the full course of their vaccination.
The case rate for the last week is 20.7 per 100,000 and the positivity rate is 9.3 percent, according to CCHD.
There have been 191 COVID-19 related deaths in the county, according to CCHD’s weekly update.
As of Aug. 2, there were 12 COVID and 194 non-COVID patients are hospitalized at Benefis Health System, leaving 34 beds available, according to state data. There were 20 non-COVID patients in the ICU, leaving one bed available, according to the state.
There were 19 non-COVID and one COVID patient hospitalized at Great Falls Clinic, according to the state, leaving 16 beds available.
CCHD is recommending, as is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, that vaccinated people wear masks indoors now because of the increase in Delta variant cases.
As of Aug. 2, there had been 60,467 total COVID-19 vaccine doses administered and 30,356 or 44 percent were considered fully immunized, according to state data.
According to CCHD, 181 people were vaccinated over the last week.
CCHD cannot issue local mask requirements or other health protection measures, under the new laws passed by the Legislature this year, without the governor declaring a state of emergency and local rules can’t be more stringent than those implemented by the state.
According to the CDC and CCHD, Cascade County is an area of high transmission.
At Malmstrom Air Force Base, the Health Protection Condition, or HPCON, remains at Alpha and there are no new mask mandates or COVID related rules, according to the base’s public affairs office.
Unvaccinated individuals have to wear masks indoors in base facilities, which has been the case for months, 2nd Lt. Daniel Linstrom, base spokesman, said.
The U.S. Department of Defense issued guidance on July 28 requiring that masks be worn by all when indoors on DoD bases, installations and other facilities for areas of high transmission.
But, due to the number of cases associated with the base community, the 341st Medical Group recommended that the base be considered an area of moderate transmission and higher headquarters have granted Malmstrom an exception from last week’s DoD mask guidance, Lindstrom said.
There no restrictions currently on where military members can go off base and their mask usage but Lindstrom said that could change with the COVID situation.