Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

Omicron hits the Hi-Line

New variant confirmed in Hill County


Last updated 1/3/2022 at 11:49am

The new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been surging around the United States and the rest of the world has hit this part of north-central Montana.

In its update released last week, Montana Department of Health and Human Services reported the omicron variant of the virus has been confirmed in Hill County.

It reported that as of last Wednesday, a total of 15 cases of people infected with omicron variants have been detected in Montana.

Along with Hill County, other cases have been detected in Casade, Gallatin, Glacier, Jefferson, Missoula, Pondera and Yellowstone counties, the update said.

The area - and state - is starting to see an increase in cases.

After days of dropping numbers, Thursday - the last date of updates before the holiday - Hill County reported four new cases with 12 active and Blaine County reported three new cases with three active.

Liberty County was listed with one active case and Chouteau County had 12 active cases.

The state, after seeing numbers of new cases dropping and having days with fewer than 300 new cases a day in the past few weeks, has seen new cases climb again. The update this morning listed 815 new cases, with the state total at 198,520, almost 2,500 more than last Monday.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Dec. 20 update that work to learn about the mutation and how easily it spreads, the severity of illness it causes or how well vaccines and medications work against it is still being conducted, although it notes that omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original virus that caused COVID-19 and how easily omicron spreads compared to delta, which caused the massive surge in late summer and into the winter in Montana, remains unknown. CDC expects that anyone with omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don't have symptoms, the update said.

The variant, first detected in November in southern Africa, has quickly become the dominant strain in most of the world and caused a massive surge, has rapidly spread in the United States as well.

Initial data indicates the variant may be less likely than previous variants to cause serious illness and death on a per-case basis, but if massive increases in numbers of cases occur, high numbers of hospitalizations and deaths still could follow.

Initial evidence shows that people who have been fully vaccinated and received booster shots after six months following completion of the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer vaccination series and two months after the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccination have high protection against death or serious illness.

But the vaccine may easily be carried by people who may not know they have it, including people who have received a vaccination and booster, officials said.

Health officials are continuing much the same message from the start of the pandemic: people should wear a cloth mask when out in public areas to reduce the chance of their spreading the virus, people should avoid large groups when possible and everyone needs to get vaccinated and get a booster when eligible.

People also are encouraged to get tested if they are concerned, and the federal government is working to provide at-home tests to people who want them.

CDC has recommended that people who are confirmed to have COVID-19 should isolate for five days, then test and if cleared can end isolation.

People who are exposed to COVID-19 should test on day 5 if possible and wear a mask when around others.

But the primary message is for people to get vaccinated.

Vaccines have been approved for people 5 and older.

In Hill County, vaccinations and booster shots are available through Bullhook Community Health Center, 406-395-4305; the Hill County Health Department, 406-400-2415; Northern Montana Health Care's Specialty Medical Center at 406-265-7831 or its Family Medical Center at 406-265-5408; Western Drug Pharmacy, 406-265-9601; Gary & Leo's Pharmacy, which takes walk-ins; Walmart; and the Rocky Boy Health Center 406-395-4486.

The Blaine County Health Department, 406-357-2345, and the Fort Belknap Health Center, public health nurse 406-353-3250 and pharmacy at 406-353-3104, can schedule vaccinations and booster shots.

Vaccine is available in Chouteau County at the Chouteau County Health Department, 406-622-3771, and Big Sandy Pharmacy at 406-378-5588.

People can call Liberty County Health Department at 406-759-5517 to schedule a vaccination.


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