BILLINGS — Most of Montana and America have returned to pre-Covid normal. Gone are the days of wearing masks everywhere you go, but the virus is still in Yellowstone County.
"June was the highest month we have had since the pandemic began in terms of cases. It was about double the number of cases we saw in May," says John Felton, Yellowstone County health officer and CEO of RiverStone Health.
Yellowstone County is reporting 300 new cases this week, a number not seen in months. That's up from 261 new cases last week. By comparison, Yellowstone County only reported 82 new cases the first week of May.
The CDC now recommends that Yellowstone County residents wear masks indoors when around other people.
However, convincing Montanans to do that may be easier said than done.
"Not unless I have to. Unless my school tells me I have to wear one for work. Other than that no, maybe if I go into public huge places like Walmart," says Jaime Harris, a Yellowstone County resident, while giving out lunches to kids at Pioneer Park.
Harris says she plans to take no extra precautions over the Fourth of July holiday and she's not alone. But fortunately, there is some good news, according to Felton.
"We haven’t seen a large number of hospitalizations," he said.
While hospitalizations have been rising each week, numbers are nowhere near the height of the pandemic, and cases are less severe.
"Generally most people are having fairly mild disease but most importantly, we saw ICU utilization drop dramatically in June," says Felton.
Some good news amidst a troubling trend as Covid cases spike right as folks prepare to gather for the Fourth of July.
"I don't think you need to cancel your holiday plans, just be cautious," Felton says.