Pandemic Anniversary: Yellowstone County reaches 3 years since first case of Covid-19

Posted at 6:16 PM, Mar 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 08:00:57-04

BILLINGS - It's been a little over three years since the first Covid-19 case reached Yellowstone County, and though the virus remains in the state the number of vaccinations has drastically declined.

Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton has been following the Covid-19 virus since it arrived in Montana. He said people are starting to become more comfortable with its existence.

“We’ve kind of reached a point of stability," Felton said. "Our case numbers and hospitalization numbers have been pretty much the same for a year now."

Felton said that the first case in Yellowstone County was reported on March 13. While community levels are currently at medium, the virus is no longer dominating headlines.

“Early on, everything we experienced was new," Felton said. "We had our first case, we had our first hospitalization, we had our first death. We’ve been through all that now, and we understand the virus better."

That understanding has led to better treatment and prevention measures. There's also less fear of the virus, which is one major reason why there has been a massive decrease in vaccinations.

“According to the state website update last Friday, in the previous week, there were only 100 doses of COVID-19 vaccine given in the entire county in the entire week," Felton said.

That drop-off has been noticed by local pharmacies. Pharm406 owner Kyle Austin said that the decline has been dramatic in his establishment.

“We saw 250 to 500 shots a day three years ago," Austin said. "It’s slowly trickled down to maybe six months ago, maybe we were doing a good 100 shots a day, to where we’re doing maybe 3 to 5 shots a day now."

And while the drop in vaccinations is dramatic, Austin said it isn't surprising.

"It's either we've gotten everyone vaccinated that wanted to get vaccinated and chose to get vaccinated," Austin said. "The rest of us have just moved on and accepted it."

But Covid-19 hasn't gone away. Both Fergus and Petroleum counties are currently experiencing high community levels, and many others around the state have risen from low to medium levels.

And even if the virus began to spread at a dangerous pace, Felton said that society has a better idea of how to handle it.

“Early on when I was asked, ‘When will the pandemic be over?’ My response was really when society decides we’re done with it," Felton said. "And I think we’re kind of there."