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COVID-19 3rd-highest cause of death in Montana for 2020

HELENA — COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death for Montanans in 2020, behind only heart disease and cancer – and is likely to maintain that spot in 2021, the state health department reported Monday.

The acting state medical officer also said these COVID-19 deaths are “almost entirely preventable” – if people are vaccinated.

“Vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19 infection and at preventing severe COVID-19 outcomes,” said Maggie Cook-Shimanek. “We continue to urge eligible Montanans who have not gotten vaccinated to get vaccinated – and for those who are eligible, to get the booster shot.”

The report also said the death rate for Native Americans in Montana, from COVID-19, is four times the rate of the White population.

In 2020, 1,258 Montanans died from COVID-19 and 842 Montanans died from the disease during the first nine months of this year, the report said. With October’s deaths, the 2021 total for COVID-19 is at 1,000.

The top two leading causes of death in Montana, for 2015-2019, were heart disease (2,206 per year) and cancer (2,088 per year), the report said.

The highest number of COVID-19 deaths occurred from last October-December, although provisional data show that deaths this September approached previous monthly highs from 2020.

In October, 258 Montanans died from COVID-19, the report said – one of the highest monthly totals for the entire pandemic.

The number of monthly deaths bottomed out at 29 in May but has been steadily increasing throughout the summer and fall.

The report also said that no one under 18 has died from COVID-19 in Montana, only five people under 30 and 100 under 50 years old.