Missoula officials urge mask use to push COVID spike down

Rob Chaney

Masking up could keep a COVID surge down as Missoula County health officials track an increase in omicron-variant virus cases in the region.

“When you go around town, you can see that the percentage of people choosing to wear masks is just too low to stop a surge from happening,” City-County Health Officer D’Shane Barnett said on Thursday. “We can’t mandate masks. We need more people to choose do to the right thing.”

The omicron variant appears to be three times more contagious than the delta variant of coronavirus, according to recent Centers for Disease Control analyses. In Missoula, the daily rate of new cases went from 20 on Sunday to 148 on Thursday, according to the Missoula County COVID-19 dashboard. That puts the county on the “tipping point” for community spread of the disease, with an average of 69 new cases daily per 100,000 people over the past seven days.

As of Thursday, 13 Missoula County residents and 11 non-county residents were hospitalized with COVID-19. The county has 763 active COVID cases.

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