Missoula County on Thursday took a moment of silence to recognize the 100 local residents, each with families, stories and lives, who have died due to Covid-19.
Missoula reached the milestone this week, serving as a stark reminder that the pandemic hasn’t passed but rather, it’s showing signs of surging.
“This ought to be a palpable reminder that Covid is alive and well in Missoula County, and folks shouldn’t be letting their guard down,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “The vast majority of folks contracting Covid right now are those who have not been vaccinated.”
The state also has urged residents to get their vaccination, though it also has stripped local health officials of their former authority to issue a mask mandate and take other precautions to slow the spread of the virus in their own communities.
On Thursday, Missoula City-County Health Officer D’Shane Barnett did all that he could do by saying his office is recommending that masks now be worn again in public indoor places.
“On Monday, we began an incident of Covid per 100,000 people in our population of 10. Tuesday went up to 12, Wednesday up to 13 and today (Thursday), it’s gone up to 16,” said Barnett. “We’re absolutely in a spike.”
Health officials are unable to do more under new state laws other that recommend that people wear masks and get their vaccine. Barnett said vaccination rates “are not where they need to be” and added, “We’re not at herd immunity.”
Just over 53% of the full population in Missoula County has been vaccinated and 61% of the eligible population, he said.
“We can never get back those 100 lives we have lost, but we can honor them by making sure no additional lives are lost,” he said. “Our best defense is to make sure people are getting vaccinated.”
Barnett also noted the arrival of the Delta variant of the coronovirus in Montana and Missoula. The variant is more contagious than its Covid-19 predecessor and is more transmissible.
As a result, he said, hospitalization rates in Missoula are once again on the rise.
“Those who have been vaccinated do not experience serious symptoms, largely,” Barnett said. “With the Delta variant, if you’re not vaccinated, your symptoms are worse and you’re more likely to be hospitalized and die.”