Health Department urges safety precautions as omicron variant of COVID-19 enters Montana
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the highly contagious variant of omicron had been detected in most states, including Montana.
Ben Spencer, communications and privacy manager for the Cascade City-County health department, said that as case rates are currently low, the health department is taking the opportunity to refine its processes for case investigation and contact tracing.
“Steps are being taken to ensure that our COVID investigation staff have the time and resources to conduct full, accurate and timely case investigations and promptly notify people who may have been exposed,” he said. wrote in an email to the Tribune, adding that the health department is examining options for allowing infected people to self-report certain case information normally collected through phone calls.
“We will continue to provide vaccines over the coming year through appointment and off-site clinics,” he said.
Spencer said the Department of Health wants people to enjoy the holidays with their family and friends, but urges “everyone to do it in the safest way possible.”
More news on the coronavirus: Montana Reports First Cases of COVID-19 Caused by Omicron Variant
He encouraged people to practice good hygiene, wear a mask in public, distance themselves socially when possible, and limit unnecessary interactions with people outside of a closed circle.
“If you are feeling sick, please stay away from others and get tested,” he said.
Alluvion Health and Walgreens are offering COVID-19 drive-thru testing in Great Falls.
The CDC expects that anyone infected with omicron can pass the virus on to others, even if they are vaccinated and have no symptoms. Current vaccines are expected to protect against serious illness, hospitalizations and death from omicron infection, according to the CDC.
“The recent emergence of omicron further underscores the importance of vaccination and booster shots,” the CDC says on its website. Fifty-two percent of eligible Montanais are fully immunized.
Vaccine news: COVID-19 vaccines for children are scarce and demand is mixed in rural Montana
Missoula County has the highest vaccination rate in the state, with 64% of eligible residents fully vaccinated. McCone and Powder River counties share the lowest vaccination rate, with 27% of eligible residents fully immunized.
The CDC lists tools to fight the omicron variant, which include vaccines, masks, and tests. The CDC recommends that anyone aged 5 and over receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and anyone aged 18 and over should receive their booster at least two months after their Johnson & Johnson vaccine or six months after receiving the vaccines Pfizer or Moderna. For more information on vaccines, visit vaccines.gov.
The omicron variant was first detected in November in Botswana. The first case of omicron infection was identified in the United States on December 1.
Montana COVID-19 figures Tuesday
Montana reported 248 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of active cases to 1,645. There have been a total of 2,889 deaths from the virus, an additional 11 deaths since Monday.
There are 127 active hospitalizations and there have been 6,029 new tests since Monday.
Cascade County reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. The county has 163 active cases and 281 deaths from the virus, with no new deaths since Monday. Forty-eight percent of eligible county residents are fully immunized.
Gallatin County reported 65 new cases on Tuesday, Yellowstone County had 39, Flathead County had 35, Missoula County had 30, and Lewis and Clark counties had 19.
This article originally appeared on Great Falls Tribune: Montana calls for precautions as omicron variant of coronavirus enters state