Ravalli County Public Health Friday has reported a spike in the reported COVID-19 illness in the Bitterroot Valley. Tiffany Webber said in a news release that of the 500 active cases Friday, 115 were in children 18 and younger. She also said that "breakthrough" case numbers were over 200. A breakthrough case is a positive COVID test coming from a fully vaccinated person. However, she reported that most of those involved people in "high exposure" areas such as health care and public service or people with underlying health conditions.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (MDPHHS) reported 88 new positive tests over the weekend in Ravalli County and 161 in Missoula County. Statewide, DPHHS had a Monday report of 1,247 new positive COVID-19 tests from the weekend.

Ravalli County officials are highly recommending vaccinations and that people should consult their health provider or pediatrician about the vaccine. Hospitalizations are also increasing - ranging from short stays to more intensive stabilization and ventilation. The guidance from the Health Department include physical distancing and frequent hand washing. You should wear a mask indoors (whether you're vaccinated or not). Unvaccinated people should avoid crowds and poorly ventilated areas. And, stay home if you feel sick.

Ravalli County Public Health also thanked the valley's school superintendents for strategies that have provided a safe in-person environment and have kept the schools open.

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A Montana DPHHS statement Monday, September 27, said a new Montana-based report showed over 88 percent of positive cases from February to September this year were from people not fully vaccinated, including those not yet eligible for vaccines.

Montana DPHHS Director Adam Meier said, "The data are overwhelming. The COVID-19 vaccine offers the best protection against infection and at preventing serious illness...If you haven't gotten vaccinated and still have questions, I encourage all eligible Montanans to consult with their healthcare provider or pharmacist." There is more information at the Montana Department's website.

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While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

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