KGVO News learned on Friday from the Missoula City-County Health Department that the county has been pushed into the high COVID risk level due to a rise in hospitalizations.

Missoula City-County Health Department Public Information Officer Hayley Devlin provided details of the pronouncement via the Centers for Disease Control.

“Today Missoula County moved into the high-risk COVID level zone,” said Devlin “What that means is that we're seeing stress in the hospital system. The CDC previously was using only communities transition to let folks know how bad COVID was in a community, but a few months ago, they added hospital metrics into that to reflect the fact that we have vaccines and therapeutics now, so, unfortunately, cases are rising and hospitalizations are, too.”

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Devlin said more and more people are contracting COVID and that means hospitalization rates are rising, as are infection rates among hospital staff.

“We're seeing hospitalizations at numbers that we haven't seen since February,” she said. “So we want to get the word out that there are therapeutics and boosters available and we want people to use these tools so that we can bring our hospitalizations down. For today we have 16 folks hospitalized with COVID in Missoula, coupled with the fact that there are outbreaks among staff at the local hospitals from what we've been told which is also compounding the situation.”

Devlin said it’s important for adults who have contracted COVID to begin using therapeutics as soon as possible.

“One of the strongest tools we have to prevent hospitalizations is therapeutics, so if anybody has symptoms similar to COVID, we want them to get tested as soon as possible,” she said. “The sooner the better because then if you find out that you are positive, you can talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for therapeutics, and especially if you're high risk, you should consider this. There's two oral therapeutics called Paxlovid and Molnupiravir and they are at the pharmacies in town so we do have access to them.”

Devlin said taking these therapeutics will lessen the severity of the COVID symptoms, but they must be taken within a few days of the first positive test. They are only available through a prescription.

“You have to take them within five days of your symptom onset, and there's a very high likelihood that they'll prevent you from getting severe illness and hospitalization,” she said. “So it's an extra layer of protection to keep folks from getting those severe COVID outcomes. Children can take them, but they do need to be a certain weight, so you need to be at least 88 pounds to take these medicines.”

Click this link for the Missoula City-County Health Department website for more information.

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