County adds 570 new COVID cases, five new deaths confirmed

Cascade County added 570 new COVID-19 cases over the last week, according to the City-County Health Department’s weekly update.

That includes 100 new cases added Oct. 6, according to the state dashboard and brings the county’s cumulative total to 13,579 and 1,142 active. CCHD has said the active case count isn’t always accurate as staff is overloaded and focusing on new case investigations rather than closing out old cases.

That puts the county’s case rate at 100 per 100,000 with a 14.9 percent positivity rate. The case rate is back up from last week’s 79 per 100,000. The week prior it was 100.4 per 100,000.

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Of the new cases this week, 80.53 percent were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated and 19.47 percent were fully vaccinated. When a fully vaccinated person tests positive for COVID-19 it’s considered a breakthrough case and this week, there were 111 new breakthrough cases, bringing the total to 705 breakthrough cases since February, according to CCHD.

Of this week’s new cases 136 were 19 years old and younger, according to CCHD.

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As of Oct. 1, there were 150 active cases associated with Great Falls Public Schools, according to the district, which updates its numbers on Fridays.

Here’s the age breakdown of this week’s new cases, according to CCHD:

  • 0-9: 51
  • 10-19: 85
  • 20-29: 80
  • 30-39: 77
  • 40-49: 81
  • 50-59: 66
  • 60-69: 79
  • 70-79: 36
  • 80-89: 13
  • 90-99: 2
  • 100+: 0

She said the concern is that local hospitals are at or over capacity and the ICUs are full. She said it’s not unique to Great Falls and is the case statewide.Trisha Gardner, county health officer, told the health board during their regular Oct. 6 meeting that the majority of new cases are coming from unvaccinated individuals and those 50 and younger.

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Gardner said that the local hospitals have been receiving nearly daily calls for ICU bed availability but since they’re full, they’re having to turn away patients.

At Benefis Health System, as of Oct. 5, there were 40 COVID patients and of those 10 were vaccinated. There were 13 COVID patients in the ICU and of those, two had been vaccinated. Eleven COVID patients were on vaccinated, one of whom had been vaccinated, according to Benefis.

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The good news, she said, is that as of Oct. 4, the county was up to 49 percent of the eligible population who are now fully vaccinated.

According to the state dashboard, 68,853 total COVID vaccine doses have been administered in the county and 33,662 people are fully immunized.

Fully immunized means two weeks have elapsed since a person received the full course of the COVID vaccine, which is two doses for Pfizer and Moderna and one for Johnson and Johnson. The fully vaccinated numbers do not include those with only one dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

Among those 12-17 years old, 35 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to state data.

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Gardner said that both Benefis Health System and Great Falls Clinic are providing monoclonal antibodies infusion treatments for those who test positive for COVID and that the hospitals are seeing a less than five percent return rate to the hospital among those patients.

She said it’s proving to be an effective intervention but those who test positive need to call a primary care provider for a referral to get the infusions since there’s limited supply and the hospitals are full.

There were four new variant cases this week, bringing the county’s total to 216 variant cases since February.

There were five new confirmed COVID-19 related deaths of county residents this week, bringing the total to 215. CCHD said there is a sixth death that will most likely be determined to be a COVID related death, but they’re awaiting confirmation from the coroner.

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Of those, four were male and one was female; two of the five were vaccinated with underlying health conditions; one of the five had no confirmed underlying conditions and was age 80+, according to CCHD.

The age breakdown of the deaths over the last week, according to CCHD, is:

  • 1: 40-49
  • 1: 50-59
  • 2: 60-69
  • 1: 80+

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is recommending that those 65 years and older; residents 18 and older in longterm care settings; and people aged 50-64 with underlying medical conditions to receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine at least six months after completing the two-doze primary series.

It’s not recommended to mix and match vaccines, according to CCHD.

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Montana National Guard members are also working at Benefis to support COVID response operations.

Benefis said, “nurses called them a ‘godsend’ as the guardsmen help deliver meals, change sheets, clean rooms, wash dishes, manage incoming supplies and otherwise relieve some of the pressure on the medical workers during a COVID-19 surge that has pushed the hospital beyond 100 percent capacity.”