Each day seems to bring a new record number of COVID 19 cases to Missoula County and Friday was no exception, according to COVID 19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr.

“We got in a new record number of COVID cases today, that’s 158 new cases,” said Farr. “I've had a lot of questions from people wanting to know, is it due to increased testing, or is there something that might have triggered that we were getting so many cases, and it's not. I mean, we're still doing the same amount of testing but we just have so many more people who are having symptoms of COVID right now.”

Farr said the rapid increase of COVID cases has forced a change in the testing protocols in Missoula.

“That was what prompted earlier this week for us to announce that we're no longer able to test asymptomatic contacts,” she said. “We've got so many people who are having symptoms right now that we really only have enough appointments to get people in who are having symptoms.”

Farr said the number of patients hospitalized has grown, but Missoula hospitals are taking the increase in stride.

“We do have quite a few people hospitalized in Missoula county right now with COVID symptoms with 39 people,” she said.  “There are 19 Missoula County residents and 20 out of county residents that are hospitalized with COVID. Right now, our hospitals are not overly taxed, but it does mean that they're having to pull back on some things like elective surgeries so that they can make sure that they have the hospital capacity to take care of people who are coming in with COVID.”

Farr again asked Missoula County residents to refrain from any large gatherings for Thanksgiving dinner.

“We keep seeing these spikes, you know, anywhere from two to three weeks after a holiday,” she said. “That's because we tend to gather with our friends and family around holidays and especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas time. I would just like to encourage people to really think outside the box and try and figure out if there are ways that you can celebrate Thanksgiving with your loved ones without coming within that six feet of distance.”

Some officials have suggested having a ZOOM Thanksgiving, with friends and family each celebrating from their homes and communicating via the online portal.