BILLINGS - Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton on Thursday described October as one of the worst periods of the pandemic for residents of Yellowstone County.
Speaking at a press conference, Felton said there were 4,569 new COVID-19 cases and 55 COVID-19 deaths in the county in October, the highest monthly number in both categories since the pandemic began.
The average number of patients on ventilators in county hospitals was also the highest during the month, and there were an average of 38 COVID-19 patients in ICU at Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare, Felton said.
Of those hospitalized during the month, on average 82 percent were not vaccinated.
Felton said there has been a good response from people getting booster shots. Last month more than 8,000 booster doses were administered. But vaccination rates for first and second doses lagged behind the September rate with only 1, 091 first doses given.
October also saw a high rate of positive tests across the county at a local testing site.
“In the two weeks the site has been operational, 33 to 37% of people have tested positive," Felton said. "That’s a very high rate reflecting the extreme spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
With the recent approval of COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11, Felton said he is hopeful more county residents will become protected against the virus.
RiverStone Health will host pediatric vaccination clinics on Saturday, Nov. 13 and 20 at Cedar Hall at MetraPark, and second shots will be given three weeks later on Dec. 4 and 11.
"We certainly hope more Yellowstone County residents will begin the vaccination series this month," he said. “The more those children get vaccinated the safer it will be not only for their family members but the people keeping our schools open.”
Watch the full press conference in the video below:
RiverStone Health issued this press release following the press conference:
COVID-19 Fast Facts:
November and December free, walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics
· November 4, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the main RiverStone Health campus, 123 S. 27th St., in the four-story building.
· November 9, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in Cedar Hall at MetraPark.
· November 11, 4-6:30 p.m., in Cedar Hall at MetraPark.
· November 16, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Cedar Hall.
· November 18, 4-6:30 p.m. in Cedar Hall.
· November 23, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Cedar Hall.
· November 30, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Cedar Hall.
· December 2, 4 – 6:30 p.m. in Cedar Hall.
· December 9, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., RiverStone Health, 123 S. 27th St. in the four-story building.
· December 30, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., RiverStone Health, 123 S. 27th S.t, in the four-story building.
Family & Pediatric walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics:
· November 13, 9 a.m. – noon in Cedar Hall at MetraPark. First dose.
· November 20, 9 a.m. – noon in Cedar Hall at MetraPark. First dose.
· December 4, 9 a.m. – noon in Cedar Hall at MetraPark. Second dose.
· December 11, 9 a.m. – noon in Cedar Hall at MetraPark. Second dose.
RiverStone Health and St. Vincent Healthcare provide free drive-through COVID-19 tests from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays – except for being closed on Tuesdays – at St. Vincent Healthcare parking lot M, at North 28th Street and 11th Avenue North. The test site is closed from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Tests are available to people age five and older who have symptoms of COVID-19 or had close contact with a person who tested positive. St. Vincent Healthcare will provide lab results to those tested within 48 hours. Please bring your insurance card, if you have one.
The free, drive-through testing site opened on October 18. In the first two weeks of operation with staffing from RiverStone Health and tests run in the St. Vincent Healthcare lab:
· 1,199 tests were conducted with an average positivity rate of 35.28%.
· The number of tests per day has ranged from 89 to 178.
Billings Clinic offers walk-in testing at its COVID Triage Unit, 2950 10th Ave. N., with signs directing people to the testing location. Hours are 8-5 Monday through Friday. Tests are billed to insurance.
A list of other COVID-19 test sites in Yellowstone County is posted at covid.riverstonehealth.org.
October statistics on COVID-19 in Yellowstone County
· In October, at least 55 Yellowstone County residents died of COVID-19 related illness.
· Two more Yellowstone County people died on November 1.
· They ranged in age from 40s to 90s.
· Most passed away while in our local hospitals, where staff and facilities strained to care for as many as 142 COVID-19 inpatients a day.
· COVID-19 patients filled ICU’s beyond normal capacity, averaging 38 COVID-19 ICU patients combined between Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare.
· An average of 27 patients needed ventilators daily. Most of those hospitalized patients had not been vaccinated.
· There was an average 130 COVID-19 patients hospitalized daily throughout October, and an average of 107 of them were unvaccinated.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after receiving one doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
New cases and contact tracing
Last week, Yellowstone County had nearly 1,100 new cases reported. Last week, 13% of all Yellowstone County cases reported were in people age 19 or younger.
· RiverStone Health staff conducted 17 COVID-19 vaccination outreach clinics during October, providing 1,515 vaccine doses.
· That included 217 first doses, 109 second doses and 1,189 third doses, mostly to fully vaccinated people wanting booster shots but also some vaccines for immune-compromised people wanting a recommended third dose.