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Montana COVID-19 cases hit new daily high; surge in cases raises concerns with hospital capacity
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COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Montana COVID-19 cases hit new daily high; surge in cases raises concerns with hospital capacity

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As Montana recorded another new record high number of COVID-19 cases Wednesday, Gov. Steve Bullock and doctors in Helena and Bozeman raised alarm over trends they said could put hospitals over capacity.

Montana added a record 348 cases Wednesday morning and three deaths, according to the state's mapping and information website.

With the new cases, the total active cases in the state is 3,635. A week ago there were 2,237 active cases, while 2,104 cases were reported two weeks ago. The state reported three more deaths, bringing the death total to 180. One death was reported in Yellowstone County, one in Flathead County and one in Roosevelt County.

The previous record of new daily cases in the state was 346, which was reported Saturday. Tuesday, 321 cases were reported. The state had 13,071 confirmed cases Wednesday, with 9,256 people who have recovered and 170 active hospitalizations.

Based on data ending last Friday, Montana saw an increase of more than 500 cases over the previous week including cases in schools, nursing homes, and corrections facilities but also in overall community transmission. Six counties, Yellowstone, Missoula, Flathead, Cascade, Gallatin and Roosevelt, accounted for 65% of those cases, Bullock said during a news conference Wednesday.

“It’s not that we’re overstressed right now, but our hospitals are certainly busy and this puts us in an especially difficult position as we move into cold and flu season,” he said. “We need to get this virus under control and the way we can do it is by once again taking this virus seriously.”

The trend could also strain supplies of personal protective equipment, although Bullock said the state has stockpiled roughly 90 days of personal protective equipment and ordered more.

Dr. Greg Holzman, state medical officer, said the Benefis Health System Hospital in Great Falls is at 115% capacity, with 37 people in the hospital diagnosed with COVID-19, seven of them in intensive care.

Holzman said hospital capacity is "very concerning" given the upcoming flu season, which typically leads to further strain on local hospitals.

Dr. Shelley Harkins, chief medical officer at St. Peter’s Health in Helena, said the hospital was treating four COVID-19 patients Wednesday. That is a bump in patient numbers, but most concerning are upticks in cases in Lewis and Clark and neighboring counties as hospitalizations typically come in the days and weeks following reported cases.

“Overall our local community has done a great job over the last seven months to flatten our curve and limit the spread of COVID but we do sense we are losing ground here in Lewis and Clark County and the surrounding areas,” she said. “We believe the previous success is due to the fact that many, many people in our community were following the basic, simple, every-day precautions to slow the spread of this virus.”

At the pace of current infections, St. Peter’s may reach its capacity in the coming weeks or months, she said.

The virus affects not only infected patients but all those seeking treatment at the hospital, Harkins continued. As resources are stressed including staff that must quarantine, that strains the ability for St. Peter's to administer care.

Dr. Mark Williams, chief physician officer at Bozeman Health, shared similar concerns about the stress on health care workers and first responders. Some workers have become demoralized as they work to treat patients but do not feel some in the community are buying in to measures to limit spread.

Williams implored Montanans to increase virus mitigation such as masks, handwashing and social distancing.

“There is no doubt this is the time to double up and protect our families, our businesses and our health care workers,” he said.

Jim Murphy, Montana's chief epidemiologist, when asked by a reporter to identify areas of the state of particular concern, identified Billings. He cited the fact that not only does Billings serve much of eastern Montana and part of Wyoming, but that bed capacity had dipped to single digits recently and the cold and flu season is quickly coming.

“It’s something we’re watching closely,” he said of the Billings area.

Yellowstone County reported the most cases Wednesday, adding 74 cases for a total of 906 active cases. A man in his 90s died in a county hospital Tuesday, according to a press release by RiverStone Health, the county's health department. A total of 3,331 people have been infected and 68 people have died in the county.

In Yellowstone County, there are 90 people hospitalized in both Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare. Yellowstone County accounts for 53% of the states COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Out of those 90 patients, 44 are Yellowstone County residents, according to Barb Schneeman, spokeswoman for RiverStone Health. Out of those 90 patients, 20 are in the intensive care unit, and 15 of those 20 individuals are intubated.

As of Wednesday at St. Vincent Healthcare, 41 people were hospitalized for COVID-19. Of those patients, eight are in critical care, according to Michael Skehan, St. Vincent Healthcare Chief Operating Officer in an email.

“We have the ability to flex our bed capacity in response to patient surges, but capacity is also dependent on having staff and equipment available. The recent surge of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has demanded additional resources and a proactive response,” Skehan said.

St. Vincent is part of SCL Health, a larger health system. Facilities from other states have been sharing best practices and St. Vincent has been able to learn from hospitals in Colorado that experienced a high volume of COVID-19 patients earlier in the pandemic, Skehan said. The Billings hospital also brought on dozens of health care workers from Colorado hospitals earlier this month.

Billings Clinic reported 48 patients with COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Of those, 13 are in the ICU and eight are on ventilators. The clinic is working to increase available beds by creating a hospital capacity unit, expanding bed space in the ICU and CVU and working with other affiliated hospitals to move patients to facilities closer to their homes, according to Zach Benoit, spokesman with Billings Clinic in an email.

“New COVID-19 cases continue to rise across our region, and as a result we’re seeing high patient volumes and are experiencing a surge,” Benoit said. “But this doesn’t change the fact that people need medical care for many different reasons, including COVID-19. People should continue to seek out care when they need it and Billings Clinic and our health system partners across Montana and northern Wyoming are here to provide that care.”

The current number of COVID-19 patients in Billings Clinic and St. Vincent adds up to 89 instead of the 90 reported by RiverStone Health. However, people are being admitted and discharged throughout the day, so the numbers may fluctuate, Benoit said.

There have been 22 deaths so far this month in Yellowstone County. July saw the most amount of deaths with 24 people, however an outbreak at Canyon Creek Memory Care that month resulted in 15 of those deaths.

The first case in Yellowstone County was reported in March. In April, two people died from the disease, while in May, one person died. June saw one death, July saw 24, and August saw 18.

As of the week ending in Sept. 26, the county’s positivity rate sat at 7.98%. Earlier this month, the rate was reported at 9.97%. Having a positivity rate that exceeds 10% can affect rules that govern staff testing frequency in certain settings, like long-term care facilities, according to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“Over the last three months, we’ve seen the mass majority of people dying from this disease,” Schneeman said.

Other counties reporting cases Wednesday include:

  • Flathead with 64 (519 active)
  • Glacier with 46 (224 active)
  • Gallatin with 32 (147 active)
  • Missoula with 31 (341 active)
  • Roosevelt with 10 (308 active)
  • Beaverhead with eight (26 active)
  • Rosebud with eight (86 active)
  • Hill with six (44 active)
  • Lewis and Clark with six (113 active)
  • Powder River with six (11 active)
  • Valley with six (35 active)
  • Pondera with five (33 active)
  • Ravalli with five (23 active)
  • Richland with four (14 active)
  • Toole with four (40 active)
  • Big Horn with three (135 active)
  • Blaine with three (15 active)
  • Carbon with three (10 active)
  • Fallon with three (four active)
  • Lake with three (38 active)
  • Park with three (20 active)
  • Silver Bow with three (45 active)
  • Chouteau with two (10 active)
  • Deer Lodge with two (four active)
  • Lincoln with two (22 active)
  • Custer with one (10 active)
  • Dawson with one (17 active)
  • Garfield with one (three active)
  • Mineral with one (three active)
  • Sanders with one (four active)
  • Teton with one (five active)

According to the state's Joint Information Center, county, gender, age range and date reported information for the cases announced Tuesday is as follows:

County

Gender

Age Range

Date Reported

Beaverhead

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Beaverhead

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Beaverhead

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Beaverhead

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Beaverhead

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Beaverhead

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Beaverhead

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Beaverhead

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Big Horn

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Big Horn

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Big Horn

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Blaine

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Blaine

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Blaine

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Carbon

M

80-89

09/29/2020

Carbon

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Carbon

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Chouteau

M

80-89

09/29/2020

Chouteau

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Custer

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Dawson

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Deer Lodge

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Deer Lodge

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Fallon

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Fallon

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Fallon

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

80-89

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

0-9

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

70-79

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

70-79

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

0-9

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

90-99

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

0-9

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

0-9

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Flathead

M

70-79

09/29/2020

Flathead

F

100

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

70-79

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

0-9

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

0-9

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Gallatin

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Gallatin

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Garfield

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

70-79

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

70-79

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

70-79

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

70-79

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

80-89

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

0-9

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

0-9

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Glacier

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Glacier

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Hill

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Hill

F

90-99

09/29/2020

Hill

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Hill

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Hill

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Hill

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Lake

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Lake

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Lake

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Lewis and Clark

M

0-9

09/29/2020

Lewis and Clark

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Lewis and Clark

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Lewis and Clark

F

70-79

09/29/2020

Lewis and Clark

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Lewis and Clark

F

0-9

09/29/2020

Lincoln

M

70-79

09/29/2020

Lincoln

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Mineral

M

70-79

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

70-79

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Missoula

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Missoula

F

0-9

09/29/2020

Park

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Park

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Park

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Pondera

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Pondera

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Pondera

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Pondera

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Pondera

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Powder River

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Powder River

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Powder River

F

70-79

09/29/2020

Powder River

M

70-79

09/29/2020

Powder River

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Powder River

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Ravalli

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Ravalli

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Ravalli

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Ravalli

F

0-9

09/29/2020

Ravalli

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Richland

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Richland

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Richland

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Richland

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Roosevelt

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Roosevelt

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Roosevelt

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Roosevelt

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Roosevelt

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Roosevelt

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Roosevelt

M

70-79

09/29/2020

Roosevelt

F

90-99

09/29/2020

Roosevelt

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Roosevelt

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Rosebud

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Rosebud

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Rosebud

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Rosebud

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Rosebud

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Rosebud

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Rosebud

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Rosebud

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Sanders

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Silver Bow

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Silver Bow

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Silver Bow

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Teton

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Toole

F

80-89

09/29/2020

Toole

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Toole

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Toole

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Valley

F

70-79

09/29/2020

Valley

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Valley

F

80-89

09/29/2020

Valley

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Valley

F

80-89

09/29/2020

Valley

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

80-89

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

90-99

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

70-79

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

70-79

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

30-39

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

0-9

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

50-59

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

70-79

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

0-9

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

70-79

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

60-69

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

50-59

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

10-19

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

20-29

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

40-49

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

20-29

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

10-19

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

80-89

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

M

30-39

09/29/2020

Yellowstone

F

50-59

09/29/2020

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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