Montana could see the spread of COVID-19 peak in late April and the number of daily deaths from the disease top out at nine per day around that time, new data released by the federal government suggests.

But that's still weeks away and on Thursday morning, a number of new cases were reported across the state, bringing the total count of infected persons to 227, including 16 cases in Missoula, 17 in Kalispell and 85 in Bozeman.

Of the state's five confirmed deaths, three have taken place in Toole County, a rural community on Montana's Hi-Line. Twenty people have been hospitalized for the virus in Montana and more than 5,230 tests have been conducted, according to state figures.

A model used by the Trump administration to forecast deaths resulting from the virus shows Montana is projected to have 268 deaths by early August.

But at the peak of the crisis, Montana will retain enough hospital beds, though it will be short on ICU beds and will need 103 ventilators statewide.

“We have been preparing for this scenario for months, in conjunction with city/county and state health departments,” Dr. Joshua Christensen at Providence Montana wrote this week. “We are planning for a patient surge and are conserving and reallocating resources so we are as prepared as possible when the influx of the severely ill arrives, which it surely will.

The projections, compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, show that Montana will need 852 hospital beds and has 1,669 available.

At the peak of the pandemic, it will also need 129 ICU beds but only as 85 such beds available, leaving a shortage of 44 beds.

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