On Monday night, Missoula Mayor John Engen was interviewed by CNN’s Don Lemon. They discussed the spike in COVID-19 cases in Missoula and Engen begged residents to get vaccinated.

“That is the single most effective way for us to ensure the safety of our friends and neighbors and family members and to relieve that stress on hospitals,” Engen said.  “I would resort to begging to ask you to get vaccinated. It makes such a difference. There was a time when I had folks begging us for the vaccine and the tables have turned. Today, we've got north of 1,300 active cases in Missoula County. And our hospitals are experiencing something they haven't during the course of the entire pandemic.”

This is not the first time Engen has asked Missoula residents to get vaccinated. Late last month, Engen told KGVO that health care facilities were struggling with capacity and that is still the case today. He told Lemon that hospital administrators are calling him and begging for help.

“We’ve reached out to the governor's office. We requested National Guard support. We're not alone in Montana in asking for that support,” Engen said. “But I often say Missoula is a city near Montana. Our politics are a little bit different. We're a blue dot here. We put in a request for 24 members of the Guard. Today, there's not an emergency order in place in the state of Montana. The governor rescinded that. So, the National Guard isn't really up and running. So these folks have to be activated and deployed.”

Missoula City County Health Officer D’Shane Barnett said that the state legislature is keeping them from implementing basic safety protocols like mask mandates and limiting event sizes. Lemon asked Engen if the state keeping him from keeping Missoula residents safe.

"Absolutely, Engen said. "The Montana legislature is a function of what was really for us a brutal legislative session. The state legislature meets every two years and this session was all about backlash against local health departments and really local communities and local control. We are no longer able to issue mask mandates. We really have none of the tools that were at our disposal early in the pandemic, which I think contributed mightily to keeping our numbers low and to keeping our community safe. Those options aren't available to use today and it's tragic, and it's some of the dumbest politics I've experienced in my 16 years as Missoula mayor."

As of Wednesday morning, there were 1,197 active COVID-19 cases in Missoula and 118 deaths have been reported. You can watch the full interview between Engen and Lemon here. The City of Missoula provided KGVO with that video.

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