Montana Public Radio

Jim Murphy

A PCR testing machine at the University of Montana Genomics Core lab in Missoula, Montana.
Aaron Bolton

As health officials continue to roll out COVID-19 vaccines, making sure those vaccines remain effective against new variants of the virus is an important part of controlling the pandemic. Montana’s state health department and universities are working to stay on top of the virus evolution.

Moderna COVID vaccine in a small bottle
iStock

About 96% of Montanans who received their first COVID-19 vaccine are showing up for their second dose, according to the state health department. That’s slightly better than the national rate recently reported by federal health officials.

A gloved hand swabs a person's arm, prepping it for a shot.
iStock

Montana lawmakers are considering bills to expand who is eligible for vaccine-mandate exemptions in workplaces and schools.

An updated count of vaccine uptake in Montana's vulnerable settings shows about 70% of residents in long-term care and assisted-living facilities have opted to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Older Montanans have been especially hard-hit by the virus.

2020-21 Influenza Season Activity, Week 47 ending Nov 21, 2020
U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

Despite Montana’s unchecked COVID-19 spread, as of Wednesday there’s not a single confirmed case of influenza in the state.

As Montana sees a surge in COVID-19 cases, medical facilities, particularly within tribal nations, are being pushed to their limits.

Kaci Wallette is a nurse at the Poplar Community Hospital, a facility in northeast Montana, where a full staff consists of three nurses and three certified nursing assistants.

After days of record COVID-19 cases, Montana health officials say they’ll start releasing daily hospital capacity numbers. Health care providers say hospitals will be overwhelmed if Montanans can’t flatten the curve.

The daily reports will include the total number of hospital beds and ventilators in the state, as well as Intensive Care Unit capacity and the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized.

Montana state health officials flagged six counties Wednesday as areas of significant COVID-19 growth. A hotspot in northeast Montana is grappling to get its case number under control.

Roosevelt County together with Cascade, Flathead, Gallatin, Missoula and Yellowstone Counties, represent sixty-five percent of new reported cases of COVID-19 according to state health officials.

Donna Hosmer of the DPHHS State Public Health Laboratory labels tubes to be used in the COVID-19 testing process before the information is entered into a computer system for tracking purposes.
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services

A Kalispell assisted-living facility breathed a small sigh of relief Wednesday when its residents’ COVID-19 tests came back negative. Those results took more than a week to return.

Initial tests were given high priority by the state lab, and a state health official says this kind of delay in results is uncommon.

'Up Until Two Weeks Ago, It Was Working'

Jul 17, 2020

As COVID-19 outbreaks increase nationwide, Montana's early warning system falters.

This story is republished with permission from the Montana Free Press. 

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Montana, surveillance testing designed to serve as an early warning system to prevent large outbreaks and keep businesses open is increasingly becoming ineffective, public health officials told Montana Free Press.

Pages