Lake County reports 18th covid death as active cases ebb slightly

by SCOT HEISEL
Lake County Leader | January 6, 2021 5:15 PM

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Lake County dipped below 100 last week for the first time in several weeks on Dec. 29, according to the Lake County Public Health, but officials continue to urge caution.

“I wouldn’t get too comfortable with the receding numbers,” Emily Colomeda, health services director with Lake County Health said Tuesday. “The labs and testing sites were closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day, so there was no testing or reporting on those days. I believe we will see a rise in cases in the next couple of weeks, as we have already seen over 50 new positive cases since New Year’s Eve.”

On Monday officials announced Lake County’s 18th covid-related death, a man in his 80s. It had been two weeks since the previous death was announced. On Tuesday the county listed 83 active cases and seven current hospitalizations. There have been a total of 108 hospitalizations in the county since the pandemic began.

Schools appear to hold steady

The Polson School District on Tuesday reported three active student cases and one among its staff, with 73 students and 10 staff members quarantined. A few weeks back the district had more than 200 students on quarantine. The district last reported a new confirmed case on Dec. 16.

The Ronan School District’s last update, published Dec. 18 on its website, listed 20 students and two staff members on quarantine.

St. Ignatius schools’ most recent update, also issued Dec. 18, showed no active cases with eight students and one staff member on quarantine.

Arlee schools had gone to full remote-only learning heading into the Christmas break but were set to resume in-class instruction on Monday.

New state vaccination plan

On Dec. 30 Gov. Steve Bullock announced a new statewide plan for covid vaccinations, contingent upon vaccine availability.

Under the plan, Phase 1a, currently underway, targets frontline health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities. With a total of 16,990 healthcare personnel in Montana having now received their first vaccination dose, this phase is now being expanded to include additional healthcare workers with direct patient contact, such as dentists, orthodontists, physical therapists, optometrists, home health workers and others that fit the criteria, Bullock said.

The plan states that Phase 1b will begin in mid-January and continue through March. Phase 1b includes an estimated 90,000 Montanans, such as persons aged 75 years old or older, frontline essential workers, those residing in congregate care and correctional facilities, and American Indians and other people of color who may be at elevated risk.

Phase 1c is expected to launch in mid-March and continue through July and includes another 171,000 Montanans. Critical groups in Phase 1c are those aged 65 years and older, persons aged 16-64 at high risk due to underlying medical conditions, and essential workers.

The final phase is expected to launch in late spring or early summer for all Montanans ages 16 and older.

Statewide decline

The number of active cases across Montana has been receding for several weeks, while active cases and deaths are at an all-time high in the United States as a whole. The state recently surpassed 1,000 deaths. On Tuesday the state reported 4,924 active cases and 212 current hospitalizations.

This week nationwide lockdowns were announced in Scotland and England and cases have surged in those countries and elsewhere in Europe.