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Montana enters critical levels, ICU hospitalizations highest since December
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Montana enters critical levels, ICU hospitalizations highest since December

During the last week, Montana added 2,055 new COVID-19 cases, 37 active hospitalizations and 13 deaths.

The state has reached critical levels with an average of 283 new cases a day, or 26.5 cases per 100,000 residents, the highest it’s been since February, according to COVID Act Now. There were 2,742 active cases in the state, as of Monday.

The state averaged 182.4 new hospitalizations in the last seven days – three times the number four weeks ago. Over the last week, Montana averaged 49.3 COVID patients hospitalized in ICUs, up from 38 last week. The last time ICU occupancy reached this level was Dec. 2020.

Overall, 69% of Montana’s ICU beds are filled with both non-COVID and COVID patents.

From July 12 to Aug. 6, 85% of COVID-19 hospitalizations were in non-vaccinated individuals, according to the most recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS). In the same week, 69% of COVID-19 deaths were in non-vaccinated people.

Of the eligible population in Montana, 49% of residents are fully vaccinated, unchanged from the previous week.

As of Aug. 11, at least 243 cases of the Delta variant have been recorded in Montana with 13.5% of cases resulting in hospitalizations, up from 161 reported last week. The gamma variant was detected in 38 samples with 20.7% of cases resulting in hospitalization.

Yellowstone County with a 9.22% positivity rate saw a 9% increase in testing the week of Aug. 12, according to the CDC’s COVID data tracker. During the first 16 days in August, the county averaged 48 hospitalizations per day, 15 of the patients are in the ICU and an average 9.5 of those are ventilated, according to RiverStone Health VP of Communications Barbara Schneeman.

In comparison, January 2021 saw an average of 52 people per day hospitalized with COVID, 14 patients were in the ICU and an average of 9.7 were intubated.

Out of the 36 COVID inpatients at Billings Clinic, 30 are unvaccinated. More than 40% of the hospitalized are under age 60.

Of the 58 patients hospitalized in Yellowstone County on Monday, 84% were not vaccinated.

In the United States, 44% of hospitalized breakthrough cases occur in immunocompromised people, according to data from the CDC. The immunocompromised, which makes up about 3% of the adult population, don’t always develop the same level of immunity after vaccination as others. Higher risk of prolonged infection and viral shedding occurs, prompting the CDC's recommendation that the immunocompromised receive a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Booster shots have not been approved for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Those who are undergoing cancer treatment, have received an organ transplant, have advanced or untreated HIV infection or have moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency are eligible for a third dose.

“It is important to note that the need for this third dose is not due to a waning effect of the two-dose regimen of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, but the way that the immune system responds,” said Schneeman.

Of Montana residents 12 to 17 years-old, 34% have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 54% of the 18 to 64 year-olds have received one dose and 84% of those 65 and older received one dose, according to the New York Times COVID-19 vaccination tracker.

As of Aug. 16, 19% of total cases have occurred in residents 20 to 29 years old, 16% of cases occurred in 30 to 39 year-olds and 13% occurred in 40 to 49 year-olds and 50 to 59 year-olds. Those who are 80 to 89 years-old account for 3% of cases.

COVID-19 hotspots include Flathead County with 55 cases per 100,000 people, Liberty County with 62 cases per 100,000 people, Fallon County with 65 cases in 100,000 and Mineral County with 67 per 100,000.

Testing in Flathead County increased by 21.5% according to a seven-day average ending Aug. 12, resulting in a 16.1% positivity rate. Liberty County has increased testing by 50% with a 16% positivity rate and testing volume in Mineral County has increased 70% with a 25.52% positivity rate, according to the CDC COVID data tracker.

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