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Montana COVID deaths reach 3K; Missoula school cases decline

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Missoula County Covid

Missoula County added 126 new COVID cases on Monday, bringing the active total to 3,303.

Montana has surpassed 3,000 total COVID deaths, according to state data.

The county was hit hard over the last week, adding 647 cases on Friday and 402 more on Saturday. There have been 24,243 cumulative cases over what is rapidly approaching two years of the pandemic in Missoula County — 6,802 (nearly 30%) of those cases have come in the last two months.

Missoula County had just 6,387 cumulative cases on the first day of 2021, meaning nearly 75% of Missoula's total COVID cases have come in the last 13 months. 

The county has recorded 198 deaths attributed to the pandemic. Approximately half of those have come in the last seven months and many victims have been unvaccinated.

Missoula City-County Health Officer D'Shane Barnett told the Missoulian last week that since Nov. 1, the COVID death rate for unvaccinated individuals is roughly 4.3 times higher than for those who are vaccinated. The death rates, since Nov. 1, were 28.9/100,000 for the unvaccinated population and 6.7/100,000 for those vaccinated, he said.

There are 41 people hospitalized due to COVID in Missoula County, 23 of them local residents. The county is averaging 313 new cases per day over the last seven days.

The health department is reporting a 29.96% COVID test positivity rate over the last seven days.

According to health department data, 72.05% of the county's eligible population has received at least one dose of the vaccine and 62.82% of the county's total population is fully vaccinated.

There are approximately 32,400 people who are unvaccinated in Missoula County. A little over 31% of those who are vaccinated in the county have received their booster shot. 

Missoula County had 26,000 testing kits to distribute, which they did over the weekend. Around half those tests have been given out, Missoula County Office of Emergency Management Director Adriane Beck said on Monday. 

The county will release other distribution sites and times on Tuesday, she added.

Cases decline in local schools

Cases of COVID among students and staff with Missoula County Public Schools dropped nearly in half last week after three record-breaking weeks of new infections.

During the week ending Jan. 28 there were 274 cases of COVID reported among district students and staff. Every school and district facility reported at least one new case, including the Missoula Online Academy.

Over 40% of new cases reported last week were among students in grades K-5.

Although a majority of the cases were among elementary school students, Big Sky High School reported the most cases of any district building and posted 31 new cases last week, followed by Rattlesnake Elementary, which reported 30.

As new cases decreased over the last week of school, so have the number of people identified as close contacts. The district identified 944 people as close contacts, and nearly half of those were elementary school students. Thirty-eight district staff were recognized as close contacts.

Earlier this month, MCPS changed the way it identifies close contacts after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its quarantine and isolation guidelines. Now, the district provides estimations based on the average total of close contacts per positive case, according to its website.

Vaccination rates in children have slightly gone up, with 26.3% of kids age 5 to 11 fully vaccinated, 45% in ages 12 to 14 and 61% of those age 15 to 19.

University of Montana

Cases at the University of Montana are also on the decline. Over the weekend, there were two new cases of COVID reported among students and staff, bringing the university to 165 active cases.

Last Monday, the university posted 23 new cases and had 199 active reports.

Since last Monday, the university has added 95 new cases of COVID, according to data from the Missoula City-County Health Department.

Jordan Hansen covers news and local government for the Missoulian. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or send him an email at Jordan.Hansen@Missoulian.com

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