Park County COVID cases surge once more

By 
Jason Bacaj - Enterprise Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Cases of COVID-19 in Park County are at an all-time high, local health officials said.

On Monday, the Park County Health Department tested 173 people and found 42 positives, Greg Coleman, director of the county Office of Emergency Management, said during the Tuesday County Commission meeting.

“The new omicron variant appears to be significantly more infectious, and where people were able to get by with a couple minutes in proximity (to others indoors), that doesn’t seem to be the case any more,” Coleman said.

County Health Officer Dr. Laurel Desnick said that the department saw about as many tests and positives during testing on Tuesday at the Park County Fairgrounds as on Monday.

“We’re definitely at our alltime high (for cases),” Desnick said. “Just yesterday I talked to three different businesses that were going to have to close or cut back because the majority of staff was out sick.”

Across the state there were 1,099 new cases of COVID-19 reported to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services on Wednesday. According to that data, Park County has 123 active cases.

Neighboring Gallatin County has experienced a skyrocketing number of cases, with more than 500 reported to the state this week. DPHHS data show that Gallatin County currently has 1,028 active cases — by far the most in any Montana county.

Regionally, hospitals remain busy. Billings Clinic had more than 90% of its beds occupied as of Monday morning, according to the COVID-19 Hospital Occupancy and Capacity report issued by DPHHS. The hospital had 23 people hospitalized with the virus, with 10 in the intensive care unit and four on ventilators.

Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital had between 70% and 90% of its beds occupied as of Monday, according to the state report. The Bozeman hospital had eight COVID-19 patients, of which two were in the ICU and two on ventilators.

Locally, Livingston Health-Care had fewer than 70% of its beds and no COVID patients as of Monday, the state report shows.

“People are getting very, very sick but not going to the hospital,” Desnick said. “We don’t want our community sick and you never know who you’re going to expose if you’re out and about not feeling well … stay home if you’re sick.”

The Park County Health Department is doing free drive-through testing at the Park County Fairgrounds every day from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. And there’s a vaccine clinic for kids ages 5 to 11 scheduled for this Saturday at the fairgrounds from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m., Desnick said. The clinic will also have doses and boosters for kids ages 12 to 17 and for adults.

Desnick encouraged people to sign up for the shots through the Health Department website, but said walkins will be able to get shots as long as the supply allows.

Vaccines and boosters can also be scheduled through Livingston HealthCare and at some local pharmacies.