The downward trend continues of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations for Missoula County, according to Missoula City-County Health Department Director D’Shane Barnett.

KGVO reached out to Barnett on Friday afternoon for an end-of-the-week update.

“We are continuing our downward trends today,” said Director Barnett. “Our average daily new cases has dropped down now to five. We want to be below 10, which we absolutely are and we also saw our hospitalizations go up just a little bit this week. So right now we have three Missoula County residents hospitalized and one non-Missoula County resident hospitalized with COVID.”

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Barnett was asked about a new COVID-19 Omicron variant that has made an entry on the U.S. east coast.

“The thing about this being a sub-variant though, is that Omicron infected a lot of people in the world and here in Missoula, myself included, and if you were infected with Omicron, you have a very high resistance to its sub variant Omicron BA-2. So what we're seeing in New England is that even though it is absolutely infecting people, it is not causing severe illness and hospitalization in the same way that the original Omicron wave did.”

Barnett said there are still many in Missoula County who are observing all the COVID-19 safety protocols despite the falling numbers.

“I think we have some people who, either with pre existing health conditions or with their own sense of public health, are really continuing all of these healthy behaviors,” he said. “The masking, they’re getting vaccinated or getting boosted. In fact, Moderna has now requested permission to do a fourth shot or a second booster and that it's not available yet but will probably be available in the near future.”

Barnett said there are plenty of ways to enjoy spring and summer safely in western Montana.

“As the weather gets warmer, if you want to get outside and hit the backroads, there's absolutely no reason to be concerned,” he said. “You can be out there hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, or all kinds of activities. We're on the cusp of spring and being able to do all of those things very safely, and I just think we're going to have a great summer.”

Barnett said just over 64 percent of Missoula County residents have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

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