Fourteen COVID-19 Deaths Added to Flathead County’s Total After State Analysis

County has now recorded 74 deaths as result of virus; numbers were updated after a ‘statewide death record review’

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

The Flathead City-County Health Department (FCCHD) reported Thursday that a review of death records by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) has identified 74 county residents that have died as a result of contracting COVID-19, 14 more deaths than had previously been reported.

In a brief press release, the county health department said the state’s totals “were recently shared with the FCCHD for reconciliation.”

At a Thursday meeting of the Flathead City-County Board of Health, Russell said the additional numbers could be the result of reclassifying deaths that occurred outside a hospital, where patients were not under regular observation by medial professionals.

“Hospitalized people are probably pretty confirmed. Their illness is pretty well established because the illness is bad enough to be in there,” Russell said. “Outpatient activity, that may be more difficult to understand.”

No additional information was immediately provided to account for the discrepancy.

The COVID-19 death rate in Flathead County has been significantly lower than the statewide average throughout the pandemic, hovering around 0.5% of cases resulting in death during much of the last several months. According to data compiled by the Beacon, the county’s death rate was 0.69% even after the 14 additional deaths are accounted for. The statewide death rate is 1.3%.

“We send our condolences to the families and friends of these 14 individuals,” Health Officer Joe Russell wrote in the FCCHD release. “Vaccine distribution is underway in Flathead County, but we continue to ask individuals to wear a mask, avoid crowds, and stay home when sick in order to protect our most vulnerable.”

Flathead County reported 57 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday. More than 10,700 cases of the virus have been confirmed here since March.

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