Flathead County’s COVID-19 community level remains at low, which stands in contrast to most large counties in the state, according to the most recent situation report issued by the Flathead City-County Health Department.
The report, issued June 10, puts the county at 158 active cases per 100,000 population over the previous week. Logan Health in Kalispell at the time of the report had 1.4% of its beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. On June 10 there were 174 active cases and five hospitalizations in Flathead County. Two of the hospitalized patients were not county residents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that if a COVID-19 community level is categorized at low people stay up to date with vaccines and get tested if symptomatic. The next level, medium, comes with the added recommendations that people at high risk for severe illness speak with a healthcare provider about the need to wear a mask or take other precautions.
Cases have been on the rise since April, when through the first half of the month Flathead County went a couple weeks with no hospitalizations, and daily active case totals averaged below 20. Currently, the county’s weekly hospital census for daily COVID-19 patients is averaging about five admissions. That’s about where the weekly hospital census in the county has been since mid-May, with the exception of a May 20report showing an average census of 8.3 COVID-19 patients over the previous week.
Considering the number of counties in that state that are at either moderate or high levels, Health Officer Joe Russell indicated he was somewhat puzzled by how Flathead County is faring. Missoula County, Yellowstone County, Lewis and Clark County and Cascade County all have medium COVID-19 community levels. Silver Bow and Cascade County are considered high.
“We’re the only major county that’s still low,” Russell said, adding that while he suspects cases are underreported in part because of at-home testing, he doesn’t think it’s having that significant of an effect on county case totals.
“I can tell you from my observations, which generally lead to a hypothesis, that we’re moving in the right direction. We could still go to moderate at some point,” Russell said. Moderate status means a county has 200 or more active cases per 100,000 population on a weekly basis.
People in the county have continued to become vaccinated against COVID-19. In the month of May about 1,150 COVID-19 vaccine shots were administered in the county, with about 500 administered by the health department. Of those, 472 were boosters, with most of those being first dose booster shots.
“People are still getting vaccinated, but not at the rates we saw a year-and-a-half ago,” Russell said.”
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