GREAT FALLS — The City-County Health Department in Great Falls said on Wednesday evening that in the past week, 114 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Cascade County.
The CCHD said that the 114 new cases include 13 new variant cases, for a total of 95 variant cases. A majority of the new variant cases were the Delta variant. There are likely many more unconfirmed Delta and other variant cases present in the county, according to the CCHD; they said in a news release that it is not possible to conduct variant sequencing for all cases, but it has been determined that several of the Delta cases were connected to larger outbreak clusters.
Because of the increase in variant cases, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has updated its recommendations for mask usage in an effort to slow transmission, saying that early evidence indicates that the Delta variant is more easily transmitted and that vaccines may have reduced effectiveness, but emphasizing that vaccines remain highly effective in preventing severe illness and death.
The CCHD said that it follows the CDC guidance.
Cascade County is currently classified as having the highest level of community transmission; you can check county-level data on the CDC website by clicking here.
In areas with “substantial” or “high” transmission rates, the CDC recommends that everyone wear a mask indoors in public places, including fully vaccinated persons. Additionally, in areas with high numbers of COVID cases, the CCHD said that people should “consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.”
The Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) reported 231 new cases of COVID on Wednesday, which pushed the total number of active cases in the state to 1,046. This is the first time since mid-May the number of active COVID cases has been above 1,000 in the state. Click here to visit the DPHHS COVID site.
Active hospitalizations are also up to 93 - nearly double from numbers seen throughout most of May and June.
Flathead County has the highest number of active cases with 252, followed by Cascade County at 158. The two counties also have the lowest vaccination rate of the higher population counties in the state with Flathead sitting at 39% of their eligible population fully vaccinated, and Cascade is at 44% of their eligible population fully vaccinated.
Governor Greg Gianforte on Twitter has repeatedly encouraged Montanans to talk with their doctor about getting vaccinated. He tweeted on July 22: “COVID-19 vaccines save lives, and the proof is in the numbers. Unvaccinated Montanans account for 94% of new COVID-related hospitalizations.”
He also said: "As cases involving the Delta variant grow nationwide, I encourage Montanans to talk with their doctor about getting a safe, effective vaccine."
The governor did push back against CDC recommendations that public K-12 schools continue requiring masks.
As of Wednesday, more than 441,000 Montanans are considered fully vaccinated - about 48% of the eligible population.
Statewide, more than 1,704 have died from the virus since it was first detected in Montana.