HELENA — Helena area health care professionals are warning against holding traditional gatherings this year as they may end up being super spreader events.
COVID-19 cases have been on a decline in the past month in Montana, but St. Peter’s Health says it’s not a time to let the guard down.
“We have active cases at the hospital, in the Intensive Care Unit and on the Medical Floor. Our new cases are going down but we have patients hospitalized every single day that are considered long haulers or people who are really struggling to recover,” said Medical Floor Registered Nurse Metta Barnhart.
St. Peter’s and other health care providers across the state are concerned there may be an increase in cases, and in turn hospitalizations because of Super Bowl watch parties.
“We are trending in the right direction, but we still have a pretty high infection rate in our community,” said Lewis and Clark County Health Officer Drenda Niemann. “Now is not the time to gather and it’s the same message that we gave during the holidays.”
Traditional watch parties tend to involve large gatherings of people outside a household sharing food, utensils and shouting and cheering. Barnhart says those are all prime ways for COVID transmission.
New COVID variants present in the country also have the medical community concerned about another spike. No variant strains have been reported in Montana as of Feb. 3, but variant strains have been found in neighboring states.
Around 1 in 25 Montanans that have been diagnosed with COVE since the beginning of the pandemic needed to be hospitalized for treatment.
Barnhart sees hospitalized COVID patients each day and notes that recovery from the virus can be a long, difficult process.
“A lot of our patients who are still on the COVID wing are struggling with doing activities of daily living like getting out of bed and getting to a chair,” said Barnhart. “Their lungs are so damaged that their oxygenation just plummets. Anytime they move a muscle so they need a ton of oxygen so it’s just really hard to recover.”
Barnhart is confident there will be a day when people will be able to return to celebrations like normal, but with current case numbers and the state of vaccination the community isn’t there yet.
St. Peter’s and LCPH say a good alternative if people want to watch the game with friends outside their household is to utilize digital services like Zoom or Skype.
People are also asked to continue to wash their hands regularly, wear a mask and practice social distancing while in public.
“Please don’t gather for the Super Bowl,” said Niemann. “We’re doing a really good job of really driving our cases down. Our trend is headed in the right direction. Let’s not let something derail the progress that we’ve made thus far.”