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

In the wake of the outbreak of the Omicron variety of Covid-19 in Missoula, local hospitals have been forced to reduce staffing levels, and the City-County Health Department has been forced to restructure how it conducts its daily operations, according to a local health official this week.

In addition, the state changed the method it reports instances on Tuesday to make it more transparent. Instead of sending reported instances back to individual counties, as has previously been the procedure, the system is now automating the process and creating new cases. City-County Health Officer D’Shane Barnett, though, believes that once the new system is up and running, it will be a positive development.


In the short term, “this will give the impression that the number of instances is far larger than it has been,” Barnett said. “However, as time goes on, it will really provide us with a more realistic picture of the instances in real time.”


The number of reported case incidences in Missoula County has increased from 158 earlier this week to 212 now, according to the county’s records. The target number remains at ten, according to Barnett, who also noted that case counts had more than quadrupled in the last six days.


Meanwhile, the virus is spreading across the country, despite the fact that local health authorities are constrained in their ability to combat the public health hazard.


“With a doubling time of six days, we haven’t yet gotten over the hump of this increase, and we aren’t yet at a point where instances are starting to balance out,” he said. “This sickness is spreading across our town,” says the doctor.


Data collected in Montana during a 30-day period from early December to early January shows that people who are vaccinated have less sickness and fewer fatalities than those who are not vaccinated, according to the study.


Between January and December of that year, about 650 persons over the age of 80 who were hospitalised received vaccinations, whereas 519 people did not. Of them, 31 people who had been vaccinated died from Covid, compared to 173 people who had not been immunised.


Similar patterns were seen among persons under the age of 80.


The Omicron strain of the virus is more transmissible and fatal than previous variants of the virus, and as a result, Barnett expects the pandemic will continue to increase in Missoula and Montana before beginning to level off.


As a result, nearby hospitals, such as Providence St. Pats, have already felt the pressure. On a single day, as many as 90 caregivers were absent due to illness. Doctors and hospital executives have had to step in to help with other chores since their schedules are already stressed.


“They are grappling with labour shortages that are unmatched in history.” “Because hospital patients still need to be fed and things still need to be cleaned,” Barnett said, the administrative staff and physicians have volunteered to help with food service and cleaning. “That’s admirable, but it’s not a long-term solution. It is likely that we will continue to place tremendous burden on our hospitals for an extended period of time.”



D’Shane Barnett, a health officer for the city and county of Missoula.

Because of this worry, local hospitals and health authorities submitted a request to the state last week, requesting help from the Montana National Guard. According to Barnett, the request had not been responded to as of Wednesday.


Furthermore, the county’s vaccination rate remains low at 65 percent, despite the fact that the aim is 85 percent. To far, 198 individuals have died in Missoula as a result of the illness.


When the Omicron surge first occurred, vaccination demand increased by around 0.5 percent every week, or about 150 individuals per day, Barnett said. “We saw the same thing with the Delta spike,” he said. It didn’t last long, as the demand for vaccinations has already plummeted to between 30 and 50 every day, according to the report.


The virus’s spread and the strain it has imposed on the local healthcare system are not limited to the hospitals in the immediate vicinity. In addition, Barnett said that the county has already discontinued universal contact tracking and has moved its attention to testing and case investigation.


As a result, the case investigation will be suspended unless and until certain conditions are met.


According to Barnett, “it’s critical for the public to recognise that there is a capacity problem and that we will not be able to contact everyone who has responded positively.” “We’ll do all we can to give priority to people who are at greater danger, but we’re getting to the point where you won’t hear from us just because you tested positive.”