The surge of COVID-19 in Montana continues to swell as the state reported 1,315 new cases on Friday, with the highest number of new cases showing up in Yellowstone, Missoula, Flathead, Cascade and Gallatin counties.
From Monday to Friday last week, 57 people died of COVID-19 related illnesses. The state has reported no new deaths since Friday when the tally of total deaths reached 2,079 people.
The unchanged statewide total is due to the federal holiday.
In Billings, RiverStone Health reported the deaths of six Yellowstone County residents over the weekend due to COVID-19 related illness.
Those six deaths bring the county’s pandemic toll to 12 deaths since the start of October and 346 deaths since Yellowstone County's first COVID-related death in April 2020.
On Monday, Yellowstone County saw its COVID-19 case total increase by 205, Missoula County by 178, Flathead County by 177, Cascade County by 139 and Gallatin County by 110.
In total, the state had 12,539 active cases and 463 people actively hospitalized due to COVID, an increase of 44 people from last week. A year ago Montana was reporting 4,851 active COVID-19 cases, 191 active hospitalizations and 187 total deaths. Late last month the state reported its 2,000th COVID-19 death.
Despite the increase in hospitalizations over the last week, overall hospital occupancy and capacity rates remained flat in the state.
In a COVID-19 hospital occupancy and capacity report issued by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services at the start of last week, eight out of 10 large hospitals in the state reported having limited bed availability or nearing capacity. Likewise, eight out of 10 large hospitals reported having limited intensive care unit availability or nearing ICU capacity.
Benefis Health System hospital in Great Falls, Logan Health in Kalispell, St. Peter's Health hospital in Helena, and Billings Clinic all began last week reporting more than 90% of hospital beds occupied.
St. Vincent Healthcare, Bozeman Health Deaconess, St. James Healthcare in Butte and Providence St. Patrick hospital in Missoula all reported having between 70% and 90% of hospital beds occupied.
Currently, the state's eligible population is 53% vaccinated, which equates to 493,475 residents.