COVID kills more than 200 in Montana; two daily case records set this week

The number of active COVID-19 continues to climb across the state, with Yellowstone and Flathead counties remaining the hot spot.

Montana reported more than 700 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday for the second time during the pandemic – and for the second time this week.

It also reached a new milestone with more than 200 patients killed.

“On the last day of July, we had lost 60 Montanans to COVID-19,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement Friday. “Today, barely into October, over 200 Montanans have been taken from their families, friends and communities. That is over a 230% increase in deaths in just over two months.”

In its daily update, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported 715 new cases of COVID, just shy of the single day record of 732 cases reported on Tuesday. The 632 cases reported on Wednesday was the third most since the pandemic began.

Across the state, 206 people have now died due to COVID-related complications and 266 people were being hospitalized. The state reported more than 6,300 active cases.

“With increased case counts, we’re expecting increased hospitalizations over the next few weeks,” Dr. Greg Holzman, state medical officer with the DPHHS, said earlier in the week. “Unfortunately, with increased cases and increased hospitalizations, we also expect an increase in deaths to occur.”

The three days with the most new COVID-19 cases occurred this week.

Holzman expressed concern with the spike in cases in several counties, including Flathead, which reported 136 new cases on Friday, and Missoula, which reported 15 new cases on Friday.

Flathead County has more than 1,000 active cases while Missoula County reported 428 active cases – less than what’s being reported by DPHHS on its statewide dashboard.

Of the 428 currently active cases, Missoula County health officials said 93 are associated with University of Montana. Twelve individuals are hospitalized in Missoula County facilities.

“We continue seeing similar demographic data and exposure trends across our active cases,” Missoula County health officials said. “Cases are more prominent across younger adults, and exposure to a known active case continues to be a significant cause of new cases.”

Sen. Steve Daines this week also called on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to investigate the Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation facility following the deaths of multiple residents following a COVID-19 outbreak.

“As someone who wants to ensure that our most vulnerable are protected, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, I urge you to further investigate the circumstances surrounding these deaths and re-evaluate this facility’s suitability to continue providing care as well as whether the state survey agency properly enforced the regulations in place to protect residents,” Daines wrote.

“In light of these disturbing developments, I request your immediate attention into this matter and a report of your findings, including recommendations to ensure the health and safety of residents moving forward.”