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Governor and state health officials again urge Montanans to get vaccinated

Bekki Kirsch-Wehner, chief of the Communicable Disease Control and Prevention Bureau
Dr. Maggie Cook-Shimanek
Posted at 3:05 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 17:34:25-04

HELENA — During a Tuesday news conference in Helena, Governor Greg Gianforte said there’s never been a better time for Montanans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Gianforte was joined by Bekki Kirsch-Wehner, chief of the state Communicable Disease Control & Prevention Bureau; and Dr. Maggie Cook-Shimanek, the interim State Medical Officer.

They highlighted data showing that unvaccinated people are at greater risk from the Delta variant of the coronavirus. He also noted that there has been a rise in Delta variant cases in states with and without mask mandates.

The governor reaffirmed his stance that the vaccine and/or masking will not be mandated, and he does not support another lockdown.

“The State of Montana will not impose a mask mandate, and the State of Montana will not impose a vaccine mandate,” said Gianforte. “As I always have, I trust Montanans to make decisions that are best for their own health and the health of their loved ones.”

Gianforte also praised Monday's news that the federal Food & Drug Administration has given formal approval to the Pfizer vaccine. However, he said that people who are are still hesitant about getting vaccinated aren’t likely to be convinced by public figures, including himself. He urged them to talk to trusted healthcare providers.

“It’s unfortunate that all of this has been politicized,” said Gianforte. “Politics shouldn’t be part of this.”

There were 720 new COVID-19 cases reported within the last 24 hours in Montana, with 3,899 total active cases in the state as of Tuesday, August 24, 2021.

Yellowstone County added the most new cases with 166 reported, bringing the total active cases to 639. Flathead County reported the second-highest number of news cases with 136, totaling 690 active cases. Missoula was the third highest with 85 new cases.

Here are the six counties with the most active cases as of August 24:

    • Flathead County: 136 New; 690 Active
    • Cascade County: 24 New; 664 Active
    • Yellowstone County: 166 New; 639 Active
    • Missoula County: 85 New; 477 Active
    • Lewis & Clark County: 15 New; 205 Active
    • Gallatin County: 76 New; 193 Active

    Information from the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) at this point does not include data on whether new cases occurred among vaccinated or unvaccinated people.

    There were eight new deaths reported on Tuesday; the total number of Montanans who have died due to COVID is now 1,768. The number of people currently hospitalized due to COVID is 239, up 19 from Monday. The cumulative number of hospitalizations in Montana due to the virus is 6,201. To date, roughly 1 in 20 (5%) reported COVID cases in the state have resulted in a hospitalization.

    Just over 50% of eligible residents are now vaccinated, with 457,505 Montanans now considered fully vaccinated. The total number of doses administered is 931,617. If you want to get vaccinated, contact your county health department, or click here.

    There have been 123,674 cumulative cases of COVID in Montana. The cumulative number of recoveries is now 118,007. The total number of COVID tests administered in Montana is 1,590,407.

    The information above is from the DPHHS website and is current as of Tuesday, August 24, 2021.

    DPHHS director Adam Meier said earlier this month that hospitalization data from June 5 to July 30 shows that 89% of Montanans who were hospitalized due to COVID had not received the COVID vaccine. The data includes 358 hospitalizations of Montanans during this time frame. The hospitalizations included an age range from 1 to 97, with a median age of 64.

    “This data illustrates just how effective the COVID-19 vaccine is in preventing serious illness when you consider how far we’ve come since the vaccine first became available,” Meier said. “The data is also a reminder of how important it is to get vaccinated. This is now a vaccine-preventable disease, and the last thing we want to see are more cases and hospitalizations. The COVID-19 vaccine is the best tool we have to prevent serious illness and hospitalization. The fall and winter months are just around the corner. Now is the time to get the vaccine.”