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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Helena Officials Report ‘Unprecedented’ Rise In COVID-19 Detected In Wastewater

Postdoctoral researcher Anna Nemudraia works with wastewater samples in Blake Wiedenheft’s lab at Montana State University.
Courtesy Anna Nemudraia
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Postdoctoral researcher Anna Nemudraia works with wastewater samples in Blake Wiedenheft’s lab at Montana State University.

Lewis and Clark County Public Health is reporting an 1,100 percent increase over the last week in the amount of COVID-19 detected in the city of Helena’s wastewater.

County health officials say the results of the wastewater testing conducted last Thursday indicate that Helena is seeing widespread community transmission of the virus.

According to the county, the concentration of COVID-19 in the city’s wastewater is three times higher than the previous record high, which occurred in December. The county saw its highest number of daily cases during that time.

Katie Gallagher, communications manager for St. Peter’s Health, says the local hospital is preparing for another surge in hospitalizations.

“The number one thing that we’re concerned about right now is staffing for a potential surge. Hospitals across the state are extremely tight staffed right now and you have to staff a critical care bed with a critical care nurse.”

Although COVID-19 vaccination uptake has slowed, Gallagher says St. Peter’s was encouraged to vaccinate more than 200 people last week. That was a jump from just a handful who had been coming in the weeks prior.

State health officials have found that 89% of Montanas who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 in June and July were unvaccinated.

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