Hope arrives

Thursday, December 24, 2020
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Dr. David Kane gets Stillwater County’s first COVID-19 vaccination from nurse Leslie Price Wednesday afternoon. (SCN photo by Marlo Pronovost)

At last, good news on the COVID-19 front for Stillwater County.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 23, Stillwater Billings Clinic healthcare staff and two Columbus Fire Rescue paramedics rolled up their sleeves and received the very first Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Dr. David Kane was the first to receive the vaccine, but he first stopped to publicly thank healthcare for working as hard as they have during the pandemic and specifically singled out public health nurse Natasha Sailer’s constant work and service.

"I think she's done a great job," said Kane.

The first vaccines went to a team of 10 people that represented every member of Stillwater Billings Clinic health system and first responders that have been at the forefront of caring for the community. The Centers for Disease Control recommended that first allocations of the vaccine be given to healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities.

The remaining 90 doses will be distributed early next week to the remainder of frontline healthcare staff, Columbus Fire Rescue, Meadowlark Assisted Living Facility and most likely law enforcement.

Beartooth Manor and Shipp’s Assisted Living in Absarokee will also receive the vaccine next week through a partnership with CVS Pharmacy in Billings.

It is hoped the vaccine will stop people from contracting the virus as well as substantially reduce the spread of the virus, much like masks are intended to be doing.


As of Wednesday, Dec. 23, Stillwater County’s COVID-19 active case count was 36. There have been eight deaths and 484 recovered cases, for a total count of 528. Five residents are hospitalized. Using a population number of 9,698, Stillwater County’s positivity rate would be 5.4 percent. That is up slightly .2 percent from last week. Positivity percentages the previous five weeks were 5.2, 4.9, 4.6 percent, 4.2 percent and 3.8 respectively.


As of Wednesday, 914 Montanans had died from COVID-19 related issues, marking a 1.2 percent death rate of all confirmed cases.

During the last seven days, there have been 78 deaths.

Hospitalizations numbers were down for the second consecutive week, sitting at 251 on Wednesday. A total of 3,360 people have been hospitalized at some point, which is 4.3 percent of all confirmed cases.

Based on data from the last 180 days, Montana is now averaging 360.1 new cases per day. On Oct. 1, the average daily new case count was 108.

During a 33-day time span from Nov. 21 through Dec. 23, there was an average of 805.6 cases per day — which marked a continued decrease from the previous four weeks.

Also of note is the number of active cases statewide sits at 8,053, while recovered cases are 69,555. This gap is the largest it has been in several weeks.


Statewide, 766,196 COVID-19 tests had been administered, with 78,522 positive cases. That is a 10.2 percent positivity rate on those tested, which is up just slightly from 10.1 last week. Using the population number of 1,068,771, the state positivity rate would be 7.3 percent — up from 7 percent last week.

There were 590 new cases reported Monday and 3,342 tests administered on that day as well.


As of Dec. 23, the state’s COVID-19 Hospital Occupancy and Capacity Status report showed of that none of the largest 10 hospitals in Montana was at more than 90 percent bed capacity. Five are between 70 percent and 90 percent bed capacity — Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Health Care, Benefis Hospitals, St. James Healthcare and St. Peters Health. The remaining six were below 70 percent bed capacity.

Of the state’s five specialty hospitals, only The Rehabilitation Hospital of Montana in Billings was above 90 percent bed capacity. Shodair Children’s Hospital and Advanced Care Hospital of Montana (also in Billings) were between 70 percent and 90 percent.

Of the 50 critical access hospitals, the Crow Northern Cheyenne Hospital, Beartooth Billings Clinic and the Sidney Health Center were at more than 90 percent capacity, according to the report.


As of Dec. 16, 4,269 students and staff at Montana schools had tested positive for the virus. Another 2,639 students and staff at 19 universities listed in the state had tested positive, according to the state Department of Public Health and Human Service’s School-related COVID cases report.

Approximately 40 students and staff at Stillwater County schools had tested positive.


National numbers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Wednesday showed a total of 18,364,615 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and 324,905 deaths. That is a 1.8 percent death rate in confirmed cases. Using national population numbers — which range from 328,239,523 to 331,117,471 — the national positivity rate for those tested is approximately 5.6 percent.

Sources for the above information include the CDC, Stillwater Community Health, the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force and the U.S. Census Bureau.