HELENA — The number of COVID-19 cases in Montana is on the rise again. As of Friday, the CDC says 15 Montana counties are now seeing high levels of community COVID transmission.
“Although we want to be done with it, it’s not done moving around and it’s not done impacting us,” said Lewis and Clark County health officer Drenda Niemann.
Niemann said she was surprised at how quickly Lewis and Clark County jumped from low transmission levels to high. Lewis and Clark Public Health reported 164 new COVID cases during the week ending June 3. Three weeks earlier, they saw just 34 cases in seven days.
“It’s rising a little sharp,” Niemann said. “Not as sharp as we experienced at the beginning of omicron, but it’s rising pretty fast here.
Most of the cases seen right now in Montana have been from “subvariants” of the omicron strain. Niemann said they’re currently seeing about 40% of COVID tests in Lewis and Clark County come back positive.
“So if you have symptoms, it’s likely that it is COVID,” she said. “If you get tested, then you know what to do. You treat it differently than you would if it’s just a common cold.”
The CDC groups counties into three categories – high, medium and low transmission levels – based on the number of new cases per 100,000 people and hospitalization rates.
There has been some volatility in the classification this time. Gallatin County was at high transmission levels last week, but it’s now back to medium. Missoula and Yellowstone Counties’ levels have remained in the low category.
“I think what we’re going to see going forward is quite a few ups and downs,” Niemann said.
During periods of high transmission, Lewis and Clark Public Health is recommending people wear masks indoors, get tested if they have symptoms and consider avoiding large gatherings if they have other health concerns – and again, they’re encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.
“We, bottom line, recommend vaccine as the best protection against serious illness from this virus,” said Niemann.
LCPH reports 46,887 people – 71% of the eligible population in Lewis and Clark County – have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. 42,507 – 64% – are fully vaccinated. 20,500 have received a booster – 34% of those eligible. 3,206 have had a second booster, which is currently authorized for people 50 and older and those 12 and older who are immune-compromised.
You can find the latest COVID-19 data on the state’s online dashboard.