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Gallatin, Park counties both facing big challenges as COVID cases increase

Posted at 5:25 PM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-18 11:31:04-04

GALLATIN COUNTY, Park County  — How did this week’s Gallatin County Health update go?

“Our current situation is not good,” said Kallie Kujawa, the COVID-19 Incident Command Lead for Bozeman Health.

But the meeting did start with some promising news.

“Seventy percent of Gallatin County residents, who are eligible for a vaccine, have received a first dose,” reported Gallatin City-County Health Officer Lori Christenson.

But the desperate position Bozeman Health is experiencing soon came to the forefront as they are transforming their old nursery space into a surge care unit.

“So, we are able to bring in beds and put them in this large open room separated by curtains which is not ideal,” said Dr. Kathryn Bertany, Bozeman Deaconess Health and Big Sky Medical Center President.

On Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, Gallatin County reported 107 new cases and 695 active COVID-19 cases. Park County reported15 new cases and 135 active cases.

Another thing mentioned during the meeting was an increase in other serious illnesses as the community’s protocols are changing.

“Since our community has relaxed some of their infectious prevention standards, we have seen a tremendous surge in other respiratory illnesses as well,” said Dr. Bertany.

“So, we are able to bring in beds and put them in this large open room separated by curtains which is not ideal,” said Dr. Kathryn Bertany, Bozeman Deaconess Health and Big Sky Medical Center President.

Community changes have also had a consequential medical effect in Park County as well.

“Even in the face of vaccines, people’s behavior has changed," said Park City-County Health Officer Dr. Laurel Desnick. "They’re out and about much more in public. The large gatherings have returned in some places.”

And this health officer believes all these things have contributed to the position Park County is in right now.

“We are well into the highest transmission level, and we have been in high transmission now for six weeks," said Dr. Desnick. "We have not seen a plateau yet. We are struggling with an overfull hospital. We are facing outbreaks in the schools that seem to continue rolling.”

The biggest message from both health departments is clear.

“The vaccine continues to be the most important strategy,” said Christenson.

“One of the first things out of their mouths is 'thank goodness for the vaccine because I can’t imagine how worse this could be and I’m alive,'” said Dr. Desnick.

There were 1,209 new COVID cases reported in Montana on Friday, September 17, with a current total of 9,545 active cases in the state, according to the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS).

Information from DPHHS at this point does not include data on whether new cases occurred among vaccinated or unvaccinated people.

The number of Montanans who have died due to COVID is now 1,877, an increase of 12 since Thursday, according to DPHHS.

There have been 139,712 cumulative cases of COVID in Montana. The cumulative number of recoveries is now 128,290. There have been 7,928 COVID tests administered since Thursday.

The information above is from the DPHHS website and is current as of Friday, September 17, 2021. The state website has county-specific data on vaccination rates, new/total cases, and more.

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