HELENA — In Lewis and Clark County, and across Montana, the number of active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations has remained high this month. At St. Peter’s Health, leaders say it’s been one of their most challenging times during the pandemic.
“It has been an exceptionally challenging week for us here, with record numbers of hospitalizations and very, very sick and very, very acutely ill patients hospitalized due to COVID,” said Katie Gallagher, COVID-19 public information officer for St. Peter’s.
St. Peter’s reports that, in October, 26 patients died due to complications from COVID – including five on a single day, the highest one-day total they’ve recorded. Gallagher said that was compared to nine COVID-related deaths in September.
More patients are also being hospitalized with COVID-related illness. Gallagher says they have been averaging more than 30 over recent weeks, with the highest number being 44 – almost half of the available inpatient beds.
On Friday, St. Peter’s was down to 27 COVID patients, but leaders say that is a single point in time and not yet a downward trend.
“That number is still exceptionally high,” Gallagher said. “Just a few weeks ago, that would have been one of our highest numbers ever.”
Outside the hospital, nearly 100 people in the community are still on St. Peter’s home oxygen systems.
St. Peter’s has shifted physicians and nurses from its outpatient clinics to the hospital to care for seriously ill patients.
They are also working to increase their capacity for monoclonal antibody treatments, which are administered to high-risk patients with the goal of reducing the chance of serious complications.
Gallagher said it’s important for people who test positive for COVID to inform their primary care provider. One reason is that their doctor can identify whether they would be a good candidate to receive monoclonal antibodies.
Still, St. Peter’s leaders say their top recommendation is still that people get vaccinated against COVID. They say it remains the best tool to prevent severe illness and death.
In light of the continued high number of COVID cases, St. Peter’s is encouraging people to take precautions when gathering over the Halloween weekend.