HELENA — Following the City of Helena, Lewis & Clark County on Tuesday formally rescinded its declaration of emergency for COVID-19.
The emergency declaration began on March 13, 2020, in response to COVID surging in the county, requesting residents to stay home and to wear a mask.
Now, the County Commissioners have looked at the number of cases county-wide and the number of vaccinations to determine the seriousness of the declaration on Monday, compared to March 2020 and although COVID-19 still impacts the community, there is now a vaccine, as well as federal and state support.
According to the commissioner's statement, "COVID-19 is now a vaccine-preventable disease and the ongoing delivery of the vaccine continues to prevent infection and severe outcomes," meaning that through the creation of the vaccines and protocols the county has developed through the last year, and with 56 percent of county residents fully vaccinated, they feel confident to end the emergency declaration.
The Commission also stated that "Should conditions change, and the public health situation require additional resources or coordination, the COVID-19 response structure can be reactivated to address any challenges that may arise,"
Ending the emergency does not impact the county's ability to get federal funding, but indicates they're scaling back their operation in COVID response now that it isn't as needed.
The Lewis & Clark County Commission is now working toward a recovery plan to conduct an after-action report.
While Lewis & Clark County has only 15 active COVID cases as of Tuesday, it's not a similar situation everywhere in Montana. Flathead County has 195 active cases, Yellowstone has 82 active cases, Missoula has 54, and Cascade has 52. Flathead also has the lowest vaccination rate of Montana's higher population counties
Lewis & Clark Public Health Officer Drenda Niemann said to MTN News:
Last year, Lewis and Clark County passed a resolution declaring the COVID-19 pandemic a public health emergency. While today’s action from the Board of Commissioners ended this emergency status, COVID-19 continues to impact our community and beyond. The road to where we are now has been long, winding, and stressful. Even now, the Delta variant surges in parts of the country, primarily infecting those who have yet to be vaccinated. Locally, new infections are down, as are hospitalizations and deaths. COVID-19 is now a vaccine-preventable disease. There is little doubt regarding the safety and efficacity of these vaccines. While today’s action from the commissioners marks a turning point in the fight against this disease, it should also offer a moment of reflection on how much we’ve changed as a community in the last 16 months.