LTE: Protect yourself and others

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Editor,

In the early months of the outbreak, Gallatin County (Bozeman) reported the highest number of illnesses. But on July 7, Yellowstone County (Billings) took the lead as Montana’s hot spot. As of October 3, Yellowstone County has reported 3567 illnesses, and more ominously, 1087 of these 3567 illnesses are still active. During these last 30 days, the average number of new reported daily illnesses in Yellowstone County has been 44. However, their average for the last ten days has increased to 64.

Flathead County (Kalispell) has the next highest number of still active illnesses, reported as 655 as of October 3rd. Gallatin County (Bozeman), which was Montana’s original COVID-19 hotspot, now reports a total of 279 still active cases, roughly only one fourth the 1087 active cases in Yellowstone County.

During the last 30 days, the total number of illnesses in Custer County rose from 67 up to 121, an increase of 54 cases, an daily average increase of 1.8. Fortunately, only six of these cases are still active, revealing that 115 individuals have recovered. On six of the 30 days, Custer County had zero new reported cases. On twelve of the 30 days, Custer County reported one new case.

A county which adjoins Custer County, that being Rosebud County (Forsyth is the county seat), has now experienced 668 positives, 108 of which are still active. In the last 30 days, Rosebud County has seen a daily average of 11+ new positives. This county covers an elongated north-to-south geographic area, extending from Rock Springs on the north almost to the Tongue River Reservoir on the south, a mere 10 miles or so from Wyoming.

Until recently, numerous Eastern Montana counties have had zero or close to zero COVID positives. No more. For example, Fallon County (Baker) has now experienced 16 positives, 13 of which are still active. Carter County (Ekalaka) has now experienced nine positives, eight of which are still active. Wibaux has reported 18 positives, nine of which are still active. Powder River County (Broadus) has now experienced 25 positives, 15 of which are still active. Prairie County (Terry), has reported 14 positives, 12 of which are still active. The high percentage of active illnesses as a percent of total illnesses reveal that these counties have only recently experienced the COVID invasion.

During the last 30 days, Dawson County (Glendive) has experienced a pedestrian average daily increase of only 1.2 new illnesses, 10 of which are still active. Extremely interesting though is the fact that Dawson County experienced 8 new positives on Oct. 2 and 3, revealing a sizable recent increase since October’s arrival.

Likewise, October has treated Dawson County’s neighbor Richland County (Sidney) like a belligerent bully. Of Richland’s grand total of 137 illnesses, 77 have occurred within the last 30 days, 64 of which are still active. The high number of actives should not be surprising, realizing that in the first three days of October, Richland County reported no less than 49 new positives. The sizable October illness increases in the neighboring counties of Dawson and Richland are a sobering reminder of how quickly a virus can spread.

The sizable increases in Montana’s state-wide reported illnesses these last 30 days, combined with an alarming recent increase of illnesses in rural eastern Montana counties reveal that COVID-19 illnesses have experienced a major uptick, both regionally and statewide. An abundance of caution by all Montanans will be required to bring this epidemic under control, especially realizing that a vaccine will likely not be available until 2021 sometime. All individuals need to protect not only themselves, but everyone with whom they have contact. We should proactively utilize social distancing, wear masks, and use hand sanitizers as well as comply with our governor’s mandates.

John Munsell Miles City

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