Photo by Jolene Palmer

Covid moving in the wrong direction

Gallatin City-County Health Department strongly recommends masks to be worn indoors, regardless of vaccination status

Gallatin County’s reported Covid numbers are taking a step in the wrong direction. After reporting the highest new case count in two months, the Gallatin City-County Health Department(GCCHD) held a meeting on Friday, July 30 to discuss the heightened Covid-19 guidelines.

On Monday, July 26, GCCHD reported 24 new Covid-19 cases. This is the highest new case count in two months. As of Wednesday, July 28 total active cases have risen to 83 in the county, with six people currently hospitalized. Gallatin City-County Health data shows a 50% increase in active cases from July 17 when we reported 35 active cases, according to a Gallatin City-County Health Department press release.

As of Friday, July 30, the GCCHD strongly recommends that people once again wear masks in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. This sudden change in guidelines is due to a change in transmission rate, according to the CDC. The CDC added a recommendation for fully vaccinated, as well as their existing recommendation for unvaccinated people, to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas with “substantial or high transmission.” This new guidance categorizes areas of substantial or high transmission based on cases per 100,000 in the last seven days. According to CDC criteria, Gallatin County is considered to currently have substantial transmission, according to a Gallatin City-County Health Department press release.

Although this may sound alarming, the transmission rate in Gallatin County is easily subject to change. “It is important to note that based on local epidemiology and sequential level of transmission described on the CDC’s website, Gallatin County could quickly move between moderate, substantial, or high. Based on the size of our population, just one or two cases per day could move us up or down on the current scale,” Gallatin City-County Health Department Health Officer Lori Christenson said.

The significant uptick of cases in Gallatin County is mainly due to the Delta-variant of Covid-19. The Delta-variant has the potential to infect both unvaccinated, and in some cases, vaccinated individuals as well. According to MD FACP Infectious Diseases and Deputy Medical Director of Gallatin City-County Health Department Dr. Mark D. Winton, the Delta-variant is significantly more contagious. “The new variant is 100 times more contagious than the original strain, and just as serious,” Winton said.

In response to the new impacts of the Delta-variant, the GCCHD will continue to push for vaccination for everyone eligible. As of now, only 55% of eligible members in Gallatin County have been fully vaccinated, while 64% have received their first vaccination. The GCCHD will continue to push for vaccination until the county numbers reach nearly 100%. According to local health officials, “It is important that all individuals eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine be vaccinated, and it is especially important that parents and guardians of children 12 and up get them vaccinated before heading back to school next month,” according to a Gallatin City-County Health Department press release.

One of the organizations that is taking action to encourage vaccination is Montana State University. MSU, which is scheduled to begin the fall semester in just a few weeks, has launched their own vaccination incentive program for students. Students who are vaccinated before they get on campus and while they're on campus will be entered in a raffle to win a large array of prizes. Prizes vary anywhere from concert tickets to tuition scholarships. MSU will continue to encourage vaccination amongst the student body in order to have a somewhat normal school year. “We really want to incentivize getting vaccinated and we also want people to know how easy it is to get vaccinated on campus,” Montana State University Communication Vice President Tracey Ellis said.

On top of vaccination, the GCCHD believes that Covid-19 can be stomped out with some personal responsibility, mainly in the form of wearing masks when needed. “We need to take some personal responsibilities in order to keep that transmission rate low at this point and things will only get better from there,” Christenson said.

If you are interested in finding a Covid-19 vaccine in Gallatin County, visit https://www. healthygallatin.org/covid-19- vaccines/.

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Cori Koenig, editor: editor@lonepeaklookout.com
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