COVID-19 cases continue to rise

MISSOULA, Mont. - Across the state, 35 counties are now considered in the Center for Disease Control's high-risk COVID-19 category as case numbers continue to climb.

That's 15 more counties than last week. 

Hospitalizations across the state are also up 38% over the last two weeks. 

To help curb the spread, the Missoula City-County Health Department is asking people to mask up indoors regardless of their vaccination status, try to take meetings and group gatherings outdoors as much as possible and test as early as possible if you start to experience symptoms.

That's because therapeutics, like Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, are now widely available and can help keep people who are high-risk from ending up in the hospital, but those treatments must be taken within five days of first symptoms. 

As of Monday, there are 265 new cases per 100,000 in Missoula County, totaling 550 active cases with 15 hospitalizations. 

A year ago at this time, the county had 45 new cases per 100,000 and 7 hospitalizations. 

Missoula health officials recognize it still might not sound like a lot, and individuals may think they'll be okay if they catch the virus, but the spread of COVID-19 is impacting hospitals and its staff. 

“We absolutely still have people here in Missoula, who are getting sick and taking up resources and room in our hospitals," D'Shane Barnett, public health officer at Missoula City-County Health Department, said.  "We have hospital caregivers who are out sick. What we are really stressing is, we need to protect and preserve our hospital capacity so that it’s there for when we need it."

On any given day 20 to 40 hospital employees are out sick with COVID-19 because of how much it's spreading, he added.

In response, a testing site reopened at First Christian Church on Russell Street.

On top of testing, the Missoula City-County Health Department continues to encourage people to get vaccinated. That also means getting the second dose or booster, if you haven't. 

For testing information, click here.

For vaccination appointments, click here.