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Flathead County

What Slowing Vaccine Rates Mean For One Rural Montana County

May 11, 2021
Dawn Stratton, a registered nurse in Kalispell, administers covid-19 vaccines at the Flathead County fairgrounds. While Flathead County is seeing demand for vaccinations lag, the mass clinic at the fairgrounds has overall been a place of hope.
Katheryn Houghton / Kaiser Health News

KALISPELL, Mont. — The COVID vaccination operation at the Flathead County fairgrounds can dole out 1,000 doses in seven hours. But demand has plummeted recently, down to fewer than 70 requests for the shots a day.

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
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Federal health officials approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds Monday. Urban counties are scheduling appointments for interested families, but access to the vaccine continues to be an issue in rural areas.

COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake for Eligible Montanans by Age Group - 04-27-21
Credit: Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services

A few counties across Montana are seeing notable spikes in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Flathead, Park and Cascade county health officials say the virus is affecting the old and young alike.

Following Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte’s announcement that all Montanans aged 16 and up will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 1, larger counties are outlining varying timelines and approaches for how they’ll meet that goal.

Most Montana counties are currently vaccinating people who fall into the state’s Phase 1B+, which includes those who are 60 years and up and people with certain medical conditions.

Nurse in a mask sitting, looking tired.
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More Montana public health workers are quitting their jobs as they face mounting stress, and in some cases, threats, because of their work during the pandemic. The loss of experience could complicate the work of health departments now and in the future.

Flathead Health Officer Resigns In The Face Of ‘Toxic Environment’

Dec 1, 2020
Interim Flathead City-County Health Officer Tamalee St. James Robinson appears via video in Flathead County District Court on Nov. 12, 2020.
Hunter D’Antuono / Flathead Beacon

In the heat of one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Montana, Flathead County’s interim public health officer is resigning. 

On Nov. 27, Tamalee St. James Robinson told the Flathead County Commission and the Flathead City-County Board of Health that she will step down from her position Dec. 31. She also wrote that she will not be returning to her seat on the health board, which she had temporarily vacated over the summer to take over for the county’s previous health officer, who left for another job. 

Masks can help slow the spread of COVID-19 from people who don't yet know they have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Montana Disaster and Emergency Services

A Flathead County District Court judge Thursday denied the state’s request for a temporary restraining order against five businesses alleged to have violated Gov. Steve Bullock’s mask directive.

Mom's Organic Market store in Virginia with customer sign to wear face mask covering beyond this point to protect employees during Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak
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Enforcement of state COVID-19 health restrictions will head to court in Flathead County in early November. The restraining orders filed by Gov. Steve Bullock’s administration in Flathead County District Court last week followed growing tension between local officials about how and if to enforce public health restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

A man on the street wearing a mask and holding a phone.
iStock

The Flathead County Board of Health Thursday refrained from imposing any new health restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The board was due to vote on a measure that would limit all social gatherings to no more than 25 people regardless of the ability to social distance and reduced capacity at bars, restaurants and churches to 25 percent. These restrictions would have only been in effect if case numbers exceed 375 per week. 

Yellowstone County ranks 14 out of the top 20 metro areas in the country for the highest infection rates of coronavirus per 100,000 people, according to COVID Act Now. To slow the spread of COVID-19 and lessen the strain on hospitals, the county health officer will implement new restrictions starting Wednesday.

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