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Montana COVID hospitalizations near 400, more Guard deployed

| September 24, 2021 7:00 AM

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Greg Gianforte said Wednesday he will deploy National Guard soldiers to help overburdened hospital staff in Great Falls, as Montana's rising COVID-19 hospitalizations near 400 and a southwestern Montana hospital reports crisis standards of care are imminent.

Gianforte approved a request for 20 National Guard members for Benefis Health System, to start next weekend. On Tuesday, Gianforte announced he was fulfilling requests for 70 Guard members to help at six other hospitals non-medical tasks such as cleaning, patient data entry and administering COVID-19 tests.

With earlier fulfilled requests, Montana has committed 107 Guard members to helping at hospitals and a state lab in Helena as a surge of COVID-19 that began in mid-July continues.

The governor's office anticipates more formal requests for Guard assistance from several other hospitals.

Barrett Hospital & HealthCare in Dillon said Wednesday its implementation of crisis standards of care was "imminent," meaning treatment and resources for patients may be rationed.

"Providers and health care facilities across Montana are currently experiencing limitations in their ability to provide the standard of care that we all wish to provide to our communities and normally expect to provide," Dr. Greg Moore, chief medical officer, said in a statement. "This situation may persist for some time and is everchanging day-by-day, which has required Barrett Hospital & HealthCare to consider implementing crisis care standards to ensure the most equitable allocation of limited resources for patient care."

At least three other hospitals in Montana have said they are implementing or anticipate implementing crisis standards of care because of the surge in COVID-19 patients.

Montana confirmed another 1,326 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the number of known active cases to nearly 10,300. At least 395 people were hospitalized.

Just two months ago, on July 22, Montana reported 141 new cases of COVID-19 and 71 people were hospitalized statewide. Over the past two months, 219 more deaths have been reported, for a total of at least 1,914.

Over that same two months, more than 42,000 Montana residents became fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The state reports over 418,000 residents are fully vaccinated, or 52% of those eligible.