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Omicron spread in Missoula leaves hospitals short-staffed, prompts health department changes

According to a local health official, the spread of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 in Missoula has left local hospitals short-staffed and spurred adjustments in how the City-County Health Department will go about its routine.

Furthermore, the state changed the manner it records instances on Tuesday. Instead of sending reported cases back to individual counties, it is now creating chances automatically, as was previously the case. However, City-County Health Officer D’Shane Barnett believes that it may not be a terrible thing once the new system gets its bearings.

“For at least a short while, it will seem that instances are far higher than they have been,” Barnett said. “However, in the future, it will provide us with a more precise view of instances in real-time.”

The number of case events in Missoula County increased this week from 158 to 212. According to Barnett, the aim remains at ten, who added that case numbers had risen in the last six days.

He said the virus is spreading, even though local health authorities are constrained in their options for dealing with the public health issue.

“With a doubling time of six days, we’re still not over the hump of this increase, so instances aren’t leveling out,” he said. “This illness is spreading throughout our neighborhood.”

Vaccinated people had fewer illnesses and fatalities than unvaccinated people in Montana during 30 days from early December to early January.

Throughout that period, 122 patients over the age of 80 who were hospitalized were vaccinated, whereas 519 were not. Thirty-one vaccinated people died from Covid, compared to 173 unvaccinated people.

For individuals under the age of 80, similar patterns emerged.

Because the Omicron version is more transmissible and fatal than previous strains of the virus, Barnett expects the pandemic will worsen in Missoula and Montana before settling down.

This has already put a burden on local hospitals, such as Providence St. Pats, where up to 90 caregivers were absent on a single day. Doctors and hospital executives have had to help with other chores since they are already overworked.

“They’re dealing with personnel shortages that are unprecedented.” “Because hospital patients still need to be fed and things need to be cleaned,” Barnett said, the administrative staff and physicians are volunteering to help with food service and cleaning. “That’s admirable, but it’s not long-term. For a longer period, we’ll be placing a big demand on our hospitals.”

D’Shane Barnett, Missoula City-County Health Officer
Local hospitals and health authorities expressed their worry to the state last week, requesting help from the Montana National Guard. According to Barnett, the request has not been responded to as of Wednesday.

Furthermore, the county’s vaccination rate remains at 65 percent, even though the aim is 85 percent. In Missoula, 198 individuals have died as a result of the infection.

“Vaccine demand increased up to around 0.5 percent a week, or 150 individuals a day, at the beginning with the Omicron surge, much like it did with the Delta spike,” Barnett said. “However, this did not endure, and vaccination demand has since plummeted to roughly 30 to 50 per day.”

The spread of the virus and its strain on the local healthcare system aren’t limited to neighborhood hospitals. According to Barnett, the county has already halted universal contact tracking and turned its attention to testing and case investigation.

The inquiry into the matter will now be placed on pause until specific conditions arise.

“The public must understand that there is a capacity problem, and we won’t be able to contact everyone positive,” Barnett said. “We’ll do our best to help those who are most in danger, but we’re getting to the point where you won’t hear from us simply because you tested positive.”