HELENA — St. Peter's Health is preparing for a new surge of COVID patients as cases across the state rise to February levels.
Lewis and Clark Public Health (LCPH) reported Wednesday that the community is seeing a high rate of community transmission of COVID-19. The county added 29 additional cases Aug. 4, the highest rate since February, and now has over 130 active cases.
“We are seeing a resurgence of the cases in our community so for example just yesterday we had 30 positive cases and over the last several days we've had similar numbers of positive cases that's far more than we've had many months,” said Saint Peter’s Health Chief Medical Officer Shelly Harkins.
Harkins says she is concerned about staffing shortages causing capacity issues. The current situation in places like Flathead County and other areas of Montana is raising concerns for the hospital, despite St. Peter's only having six COVID-19 hospitalizations right now, one of whom is in the intensive care unit.
“We are reaching 100% capacity more so because of staffing and because of bed availability. You have to staff the bed to be able to take a patient into it and this is exactly what our neighbors are seeing to the northwest and east,” said Harkins.
Harkins says through the past year and a half the staff at the hospital have remained flexible.
“It's been unbelievable in their resiliency is truly second to none and to still even after all of these months be picking up extra shifts in coming in you know little earlier staying a little later all of the things that they know they need to do to take care of their community they are still doing that,” said Harkins.
As COVID-19 cases rise, Harkins is urging the community to practice proper handwashing, wear a mask when you’re indoors and if you have not been vaccinated do so as soon as possible.
“We now have a very effective weapon against COVID and that is the vaccine we were able to reach close to 60% vaccination rates in Lewis and Clark County have we reached a higher rate we probably would not be facing this resurgence of COVID,” said Harkins.
The Hospital is following the CDC’s guidance that says in areas of substantial transmission people regardless of vaccination status should mask indoors and reiterates that everyone over the age of 12 should get vaccinated.
LCPH reports that between July 26 and August 2, 92 percent of county cases were of unvaccinated individuals. Their data from shows that 57 percent of the eligible people in the county are considered fully vaccinated. Nearly 4,900 more people would need to be vaccinated to reach 70 percent.
At the current seven-day pace, the county won't reach 70 percent until October of 2022.