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

Yellowstone County health official: October was worst month for COVID-19 since the pandemic began

Closeup of a mask on a person's face.

Almost a year after Billings hospitals received Montana’s first round of COVID-19 vaccines for frontline workers, severe cases of COVID-19 are at an all-time high in Yellowstone County.

Yellowstone County health officer John Felton says local hospitals saw more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in October than they have since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We would anticipate we’ll see cases at some point begin to work their way down and get back to a baseline level," Felton said. "I think we’re probably in for several more months, though."

Felton says Billings hospitals recorded more than 4,500 cases of COVID-19, 302 newly hospitalized patients and at least 55 deaths last month — the pandemic’s highest numbers on all counts.

He says if each person who tested positive throughout October had four close contacts, then 14% of the county’s population was either ill or needed to quarantine last month.

Felton says hospitals treated an average of 130 COVID-19 patients a day; more than 80% of seriously ill patients were unvaccinated.

To date,55% of Yellowstone County residents are fully vaccinated, according to state data, in line with vaccination rates statewide.

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio. To see more, visit Yellowstone Public Radio.

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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