MISSOULA — County health officials are reporting that on Tuesday a pair of Missoula County COVID-19 cases were identified as being infected with a variant of concern.
The variant detected is known as the California variant.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the variant is 20% more transmissible and has a significant impact on some of the therapies used to treat COVID-19 patients.
According to the Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD), it’s not known if the infected persons traveled outside of Montana or contracted the variant locally.
Variants have already been identified in several Montana counties.
Missoula County Health Officer Ellen Leahy also notes that local COVID-19 cases are “moving in the wrong direction” with test positivity rates jumping 2% in the past week.
Leahy also said that the COVID-19 incidence rate seven-day average per 100,000 people is also on the rise.
“After two months of declining cases, our incidence rate recently increased from 11 to 18,” Leahy said.
According to the Harvard Global Health Institute, an incident rate at or above 25 can signal a tipping point for controlling the spread of COVID-19.
MCCHD also reports that COVID-19 related hospitalizations in younger people have been rising.
County health officials say that of the eight county residents hospitalized in the last week, three of them are in their 20s, four are in their 60s and only one hospitalized patient is over 70.
Roughly 50% of Missoula County’s total population is currently eligible for vaccine appointments and residents are being urged to set up COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
Health officials are also cautioning people not to let their guard down to continue practicing social distancing, face mask use, and handwashing.
A total of 8,604 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Missoula County including 8,380 recoveries and 89 COVID-19 related deaths.
Additionally, the Montana COVID-19 tracking map shows 50,330 vaccine doses have been administered in Missoula County and 17,994 people are fully immunized.
The latest information regarding the COVID-19 in Missoula County can be found here.