Two New COVID-19 Fatalities Brings Death Toll to 23 in Flathead County

Local health officials urge vulnerable populations to take caution as cases increase

By Tristan Scott
The Flathead City-County Health Department building as pictured on Sept. 23, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

As the surge of new COVID-19 cases in Flathead County continues to smash daily records, local health officials announced Thursday that the disease had claimed two additional lives, renewing their pleas for community members to think critically before venturing into public settings.

The two additional COVID-19 related deaths bring the county’s total to 23, with 15 of those fatalities associated with outbreaks at more than a dozen separate residential care facilities.

While the disease spreads more easily and is difficult to contain in congregant settings such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the Flathead City-County Health Department (FCCHD) is also reporting high rates of COVID-19 transmission related to public settings such as community events, restaurants, bars, and, social gatherings.

“We’re seeing an increase of cases associated with social events and time spent in public places,” said Tamalee St. James Robinson, FCCHD’s interim health officer. “There are cases throughout the county associated with office lunches, restaurants, weddings, and birthday parties. As a community, we need to think carefully and make smart decisions before we decide to attend an event or go to public spaces like restaurants and bars, particularly if you are part of a vulnerable population. Indoor events are particularly risky.”

The health department reported 85 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, the second highest single-day total since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, the number of hospitalizations climbed to 22, surpassing the previous high of 19 hospitalized patients and raising concerns about straining capacity within the local health care system.

“Now more than ever our community needs to take these precautions seriously,” St. James Robinson said. “Events such as Halloween are approaching and it going to be vital that we find safer ways to celebrate. Follow the general public health precautions such as wear a mask, stay home if you are ill, and wash your hands. In addition, avoid large events and gatherings including costume parties and group trick or treating. We all have a role in keeping our schools and business open and our most vulnerable loved ones safe.”