Unvaccinated Patients Continue to Drive COVID-19 Hospitalizations

Recent Logan Health census reports have shown all ICU and ventilator patients to be unvaccinated

By Myers Reece
Heather Marshall, an infection control nurse, holds a vial of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine at Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation Center nursing home in Whitefish on Dec. 31, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Unvaccinated patients continue to overwhelmingly drive COVID-19 hospitalizations in Flathead County, accounting for all critically ill patients in the intensive-care unit (ICU) and on ventilators in the two most recent hospitalization reports from Logan Health.

Flathead County also experienced one of its deadliest months of the pandemic in August with 16 COVID-19 deaths. That came on the heels of six deaths in July. The county has now registered 127 total deaths, as of Sept. 13.

Logan Health launched its weekly status report on Sept. 1 to offer a current census of COVID-19 patients at Logan Health Medical Center. The report reflects a snapshot of a specific time when the count was recorded, and medical officials note that the hospitalization census fluctuates day to day.

In the health system’s initial Sept. 1 report, which showed the census as of 9 a.m. that day, unvaccinated patients represented 33 of the 38 total hospitalizations and all eight patients in the ICU. All three COVID-19 patients on ventilators were also unvaccinated.

Unvaccinated patients again accounted for all hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the ICU and on ventilators in the Sept. 8 census report, with those numbers totaling nine and seven, respectively. Unvaccinated patients accounted for 32 of the 37 total COVID-19 hospitalizations. 

The statistics reflect national trends and are cited by health officials in encouraging eligible residents to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which continues to broadly prevent severe illness among the vaccinated population even as sporadic breakthrough cases circulate in the community.

“Since the surge began, roughly 90% of the COVID patients at Logan Health Medical Center have been unvaccinated,” Dr. Cory Short, a hospitalist at Logan Health Medical Center, said on Monday. “Overall, most of the vaccinated hospitalized patients at our facility have less severity of illness and are therefore less likely to need intensive care.”

Flathead County’s full vaccination rate has been slowly ticking up among its eligible population, registering at 42% on Sept. 13. The statewide full immunization rate is 51%, led by Missoula County at 63%.

Hospitalizations statewide continue climbing, registering at 351 active hospitalizations on Sept. 13. Before the current surge, the state had seen its hospitalization average dip to about 50 in early summer. The state still trails its peak average of 427 active hospitalizations in November.

Flathead County, however, has been registering hospitalization counts that mirror and at times exceed peak November numbers. The county also reported more than 100 new cases on three consecutive days last week and had 1,008 active cases as of Sept. 13, second most in Montana behind Yellowstone County.

According to a weekly hospital capacity report from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, the state still had 90 ICU beds available out of 315 statewide, as of Sept. 6. COVID-19 patients represented about one-third of the 225 patients in ICUs across Montana.

The hospital occupancy report showed that Flathead County had the second-highest bed occupancy in Montana at 90% of inpatient beds filled.

The state has experienced 1,842 total COVID-19 deaths, as of Sept. 13, since the pandemic began in March 2020, including 134 new deaths added since Aug. 1.

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