BILLINGS- Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton is holding a press conference Thursday, November 19 at 2 p.m. to announce a new Health Officer Order related to rising cases of COVID-19.

"Since about the middle of September, the number of cases of COVID-19 in Yellowstone County have been rising each week," said Vice President of Communication and Public Affairs Barbara Schneeman of RiverStone Health.

Schneeman added, "We are definitely going in the wrong direction."

She said our average daily case count this week is 94 per 100,000. That is nearly four times the threshold set by The Unified Health Command. The Unified Health Command set the threshold for being in the red zone (red zone meaning stressed operations) at 25 per 100,000.

This comes as Billings Clinic is reporting the highest number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital so far. Right now, Billings Clinic is at 106% capacity. There are 99 patients with COVID-19, which is 41% of the patients currently in the hospital.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Toni Green-Cheatwood said Billings Clinic has been above 100% capacity for a couple of weeks now.

"We are at 106% of capacity," she said. "What that means is we have a number of acute care beds. And, by adding beds in different locations such as our recovery room or by double-occupying a room, or  by putting two patients in a room, we've been able to increase the number of beds and the number of patients in the hospital."

Dr. Green-Cheatwood said they are grateful for help from the federal government. Right now, the National Guard is helping out doing non-clinical work, such as delivering meals. Medical professionals from a Disaster Medical Assistance Team and a Trauma Critical Care Team are helping out as well. Billings Clinic also received 20 additional beds from the Department of Emergency Services.

She said, "Our doctors and nurses are very strong. And, they've been dealing with higher census and acuity of patients for a very long time. Not gonna lie, it would be challenging without the help. But, we're forecasting how we can move patients where needed and transfer amongst some of the critical access hospitals as appropriate and really work together as a region."

Dr. Green-Cheatwood said Billings Clinic has discharged almost 300 patients who had COVID-19 in the last six weeks.

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