BILLINGS — COVID-19 turned our world upside down. Billings hospitals were overwhelmed with patients, meaning beds, equipment, and COVID vaccines were in short supply.
At one point last year, Billings Clinic had 44 COVID patients, 16 of them in the ICU. Fast forward a year and things have drastically changed.
"So, for the last three weeks we have had single-digit hospitalized patients," says John Felton, Yellowstone County Health Officer.
COVID cases are being reported weekly instead of daily. Drive-thru testing sites have closed and hospitalization rates nationally are the lowest they've been since the pandemic began.
Felton states, "all mass testing sites are closed in Yellowstone County."
That means the millions of dollars worth of medical equipment in Billings is no longer needed. The 17 ventilators, oxygen concentrators, and thousands of dollars worth of other life-saving equipment are now being returned to the federal government.
"So, we still have a cache of gloves, masks, gowns, and hand sanitizer. But all the capital equipment - the oxygen concentrators, the high flow oxygen devices, and mechanical ventilators - have been decommissioned," says KC Williams, Yellowstone County's director of Disaster and Emergency Services
Felton warns that COVID is still spreading, but it is not "severe disease."
That means there's some hope on the horizon.