HELENA — Lewis and Clark Public Health (LCPH) report the county has reached a nearly 40 percent positivity rate on COVID-19 tests. Meaning two out of five tests are positive COVID-19 cases, which is concerning for public health officials.
"Over the course of this pandemic, the last two years have not seen a positivity rate that high and so what that number represents is that it's of all of the tests that are being done in our county right now, almost 40% are coming back positive for COVID-19," said Drenda Niemann, Lewis and Clark Public Health Officer.
The county reported 100 new cases on Wednesday, with 713 active Wednesday. Neimann says the quick spread with this latest surge is likely due to the omicron variant.
"It's going to be faster, more people are going to be infected, and our hospital will feel it so and it the more cases that we have inevitably it's just math, the more cases equals more hospital hospitalizations equals more deaths," said Niemann.
Niemann reiterated that the best way to protect yourself is being fully vaccinated, meaning you received your first and second dose and a booster.
"If you got to the second dose and you're not boosted, you have some protection, but the best protection is to be fully vaccinated," said Niemann.
And to follow the new CDC guidelines of using a three-layered mask like an N95 or KN95 mask, but if you can't find those, Neimann says you should use a high-quality cloth mask
"So as an alternative to that N95 version you can layer either get a really well-made cloth mask that has the three layers, or you can put a surgical mask underneath of your cloth mask," said Niemann.
Niemann says that many people are suffering from fatigue of the pandemic, but the community must remain vigilant in practicing safe distancing and wearing a mask.
"The more cases we have, the more serious illness we will have, the more hospitalizations we will have, and the more deaths we will have, and that would be tragic to continue to see people suffer, and our community suffers, schools suffer, our businesses suffer. So if we all do our part, then it will help to limit the impact that this surge will have on us individually, but also our broader community," said Niemann.
Although many people are tired of the reported numbers every day, Niemann says they represent people who are suffering from illness.
“It's really hard to take it seriously because it's gone on for so long, but just know behind every single one of those numbers there's a person,” said Niemann.
LCPH has a vaccination clinic on Saturday, January 15th, at East Helena High by appointment only. You can visit the public health website to sign up.