Park County reports fifth death in nursing home virus outbreak

By 
Sam Klomhaus — Enterprise Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A 12th Park County resident has died from COVID-19, the Park County Health Department confirmed Tuesday.

The death, which occurred Saturday, is the fifth stemming from a COVID outbreak at Livingston Health and Rehabilitation, according to Park County Health Officer Dr. Laurel Desnick.

Desnick said the person who died was an elderly woman.

So far in Montana, there have been 1,385 deaths attributed to COVID-19 among 101,093 total reported cases, according to the state’s COVID-19 case map.

In other COVID-19 news, local vaccine providers are working through scheduling vaccine group 1B+, which includes those over age 60, as well as those with certain health conditions that put them at higher risk for COVID-19.

Health Department Director Alex Baukus told the county commissioners Tuesday the Health Department is no longer relying on a waiting list to schedule vaccinations, and instead has opened an online sign-up portal.

The scheduling portal can be accessed through the county’s COVID-19 website: https://park-county-coronavirus-response-parkcounty.hub.arcgis.com.

Desnick encouraged residents to sign up for Nixle, the county’s emergency alert system, because changes in vaccine distribution are announced there.

There were some issues when the scheduling portal was initially launched Friday, Desnick said, but it should be working now.

Desnick said Tuesday new slots open on Fridays and Mondays. 

The slots open those days because the Health Department doesn’t know when exactly the vaccine doses will arrive from the distributor each week, Desnick said.

Desnick encouraged those interested in scheduling an appointment to check the site intermittently on Fridays and Mondays.

“If they check now and again on Mondays and Fridays they will get a spot,” Desnick said.

This week’s appointment slots have all been filled, Desnick said.

The Health Department is only scheduling one week at a time, Baukus said.

Park County continues to receive 400-500 Moderna vaccine doses each week, Desnick said, with first dose clinics being held Thursdays and second-dose clinics Wednesdays.

“Should it go higher, we have a plan to use as much as they can give us,” Desnick said.

Osco pharmacy at Albertsons is expected to begin vaccinating teachers soon through a deal with the federal government, Desnick said, but that shipment, which is separate from the county’s allotment, hasn’t arrived yet.

Livingston HealthCare is still using a waiting list to schedule vaccine appointments, and Marketing and Communications Manager Lindsey Pennell said Tuesday more than 400 people in group 1B+ have signed up since the waiting list went live for that group at 9 a.m. Monday.

To get on the list, visit www.livingstonhealthcare.org, click on “COVID-19 Vaccine Information” and scroll down to the form.

LHC Chief Operating Officer Chris Darnell said the waiting list is moving forward, and the hospital is having to make multiple calls per appointment, which he sees as a positive because presumably the people not picking up their phones have been vaccinated somewhere else.

Pharmacy Manager Brian Galbreth said LHC has been good about having no doses, or as few doses as possible, remaining when the next vaccine shipment comes in, as the goal is to get the vaccine to as many people as possible.

LHC Medical Director Dr. Scott Coleman said the divide between people who want the vaccine and those who refuse the vaccine has been “remarkable,” and like nothing he has seen in health care.

Coleman urged those refusing the vaccine to consider how quickly society could return to normal if we could just get vaccine rates up.

The COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be effective and safe, Coleman said, and there’s “no rational reason for refusing them.”

As of Tuesday morning, the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution map reported 4,832 vaccine doses have been administered in Park County, with 1,632 people having completed the vaccination process.

Darnell said it has been nice to see the joy people experience when they get vaccinated.

“We’re glad to be a part of that,” Darnell said.

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