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One year of COVID-19 in Yellowstone County



BILLINGS – After one year of living with COVID-19 in the community, Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton says the one thing that stands out to him is the constant evolution of knowledge we’ve gained over the past year.

“Science learns from experience,” Felton said. “A year ago today, we had zero experience with COVID-19 in Montana and Yellowstone County.”

In the past 12 months, the county’s Unified Health Command has managed multiple testing sites, created screenings and vaccination clinics and helped us learn, as a community, to constantly adapt.

“No matter what has been thrown at us as a community and as an organization, we’ve found a way to respond,” Felton said.

Felton said the Unified Health Command met and planned for weeks, before Yellowstone County’s first reported case on March 13, 2020, to prepare for the toll this virus could potentially have in the community.

Since then, nearly 16,500 people have tested positive for COVID-19, over 1,000 of those people were hospitalized and at least 240 people died.

“Each of these deaths are deeply felt, these are not abstract numbers. Each one represents someone’s father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, grandparent or great grandparent,” Felton said.

This past year, we’ve seen our hospitals overrun with COVID-19 patients. We’ve seen our favorite restaurants and small businesses close for good. We’ve worked and learned from home, and isolated from our friends and family, all in anticipation of that COVID-19 vaccine that is now being administered to Yellowstone County residents.

As of March 10, 2021, 47,504 vaccine doses have been given in Yellowstone County, and 19,409 residents are considered fully immunized.

RiverStone Health estimates 20% of the county is now immune to COVID-19, either through getting vaccinated or through contracting the virus, and it will take a few more months until the county reaches that desired 70% required for herd immunity.

“I deeply appreciate the sacrifices that Yellowstone County residents have made and continue to make to keep themselves, their loved ones, our school students, customers, employees and customers safe and healthy. It has been a very long year for all of us, but together we will get through this,” Felton said.

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