County case rate rising, 454 new cases over last week

The county has added 454 COVID-19 cases over the last week, including 141 new cases on Sept. 1, according to the state dashboard, putting the county’s cumulative total at 11,125.

The county currently has 927 active cases, Trisha Gardner, county health officer, told the Board of Health during their regular Sept. 1 meeting.

Of the new cases this week, 74 of them were aged 0-19 and 176 were ages 0-29. Of those 176, 163 were unvaccinated, according to CCHD.

Gardner said the City-County Health Department has asked the state for help in closing old cases and date upkeep since her staff are inundated keeping up with new case investigations.

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She said they may do another mass closure as they did last week by closing all cases more than 15 days old.

Gardner said that the current case rate is now 79.7 per 100,000.

The positivity rate is 12.4 percent, according to CCHD.

That’s up from last week’s rate of 50.04 per 100,000 and 55.31 the previous week.

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As of Aug. 11, the case rate in Cascade County was 39.86 per 100,000.

On Aug. 4, the rate was 20.7 per 100,000.

The peak of local cases was November 2020 and the case rate was 227 per 100,000, though it was partly that high due to a reporting backlog.

That came down to 98 per 100,000 on Dec. 1, 2020.

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On July 14, the case rate was 7 per 100,000.

Gardner said she anticipates the case numbers continuing to rise before they come back down.

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She said the Delta variant is predominant in the county and there were 7 new cases this week, bringing the total of variant cases in the county to 154.

Gardner said that most of the new cases over the last week have been among people who are unvaccinated.

There were 77 breakthrough cases over the last week, meaning 83 percent of the new cases were among the unvaccinated, according to this afternoon’s update from CCHD. There have been a total of 304 breakthrough cases in the county since February.

Breakthrough cases are those among the fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks have elapsed since their final dose of the vaccine.

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As of Aug. 30, there have been 63,658 doses administered in the county and 31,649 are fully vaccinated, or 46 percent of the eligible population.

She said they’ve seen an increase in vaccinations for those in the 12-17 age group, which is now up to 31 percent with at least one dose. That’s up from the Aug. 15 state update on vaccinations, when 28 percent of people in that age group had at least one dose.

That age group has now bypassed those 18-29, with 30 percent vaccinated.

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Among 30-39 year-olds, 40 percent were vaccinated and about 40 percent for the 40-49 age group, she said.

For those in their 50s, about 50 percent are vaccinated.

The rate jumps to 71 percent for those in their 60s, 77 percent for those in their 70s and 74 percent for those 80 and older, Gardner said.

There have been 197 COVID-19 related deaths in the county, including two that were recent, Gardner said.

Of the total deaths, three were vaccinated, but all had underlying health conditions, according to CCHD.

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Dr. Ray Geyer, the infectious disease specialist at Great Falls Clinic, said that based on local data, the state breakthrough rate is 0.2 percent and in Cascade County, it’s 0.4 percent since breakthrough cases started being tracked in February.

He said that indicates that the vaccine “certainly does” work. It’s not infallible and there will be breakthrough cases, but the vaccine is “going to help you stay out f the hospital and from getting desperately sick and dying.”

As of Aug. 30, according to state data, there were 28 COVID and 171 non-COVID patients hospitalized at Benefis Health Center, leaving 41 beds available. There were five COVID and 15 non-COVID patients in the ICU, leaving one bed available. Five COVID and 15 non-COVID patients were on ventilators, leaving 13 available.

Great Falls Clinic had five COVID and eight non-COVID patients, leaving 23 beds available.