US Health Team Arrives to Help as Virus Surges in Montana

National Disaster Medical System Team will work in Billings for two weeks as hospitals across the state near capacity

By Associated Press
Joseph Steele deposits his nasal swab in a tube for a COVID-19 test at the Flathead County Fairgrounds in Kalispell on Oct. 7, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

U.S. officials have dispatched a team of nearly 30 physicians, nurses, paramedics and other health care workers to Montana’s largest city to address a surge in COVID-19 cases that’s straining health systems statewide.

The National Disaster Medical System team arrived Friday and will work in Billings for two weeks, The Billings Gazette reported.

That comes as hospitals in many parts of the state are nearing full occupancy. Hospitals in Billings, Helena and Butte have at least 90% of their beds occupied, according to a status report posted Tuesday by state health officials.

The federal health care team will work from Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare. The Billings hospitals each have more COVID cases than any other hospital in the state and were treating a combined 127 COVID patients, the Department of Public Health and Human Services reported.

The two hospitals serve much of eastern and central Montana, as well as areas of Wyoming.

Statewide, almost 500 people were hospitalized with COVID, according to state officials.

More than 41,000 people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus since the first case was reported in March. That’s almost 4% of Montana’s population.

The total number of infections is likely much higher because not everyone shows symptoms.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.