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COVID rates climb in Billings with new vaccine weeks away

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Posted at 8:19 AM, Sep 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-06 10:19:03-04

BILLINGS — COVID cases and hospitalizations have climbed in Yellowstone County from July to August and with a new vaccine around the corner, healthcare professionals are expecting vaccinations will also climb.

"I have a passionate stance for protecting my child," said Billings woman Colette Haun.

Haun knows any illness for her 10-year-old daughter Brooklyn can be life-changing. Brooklyn suffers from asthma and other health conditions, so Haun said the decision to vaccinate her from COVID-19 was a no-brainer.

"As soon as those shots came out for kids, we put her right in line. Because we wanted to put a line of defense between her and those situations that we couldn’t control when she left our care," added Haun.

Brooklyn has never been diagnosed with COVID, despite being exposed multiple times in school.

Many believe that three years after the pandemic started that the journey is over. But numbers at Billings Clinic say otherwise.

"For the month of July, we had five hospitalizations that age range was in the low 30s into the 90s. The month of August, that changed for us," said Nancy Iversen, director of patient safety and infection control at Billings Clinic.

In August, hospitalizations rose to 20, with one death, a 68-year-old.

Those stats don’t include kids, but in a 24-hour period from Aug. 30 to Aug. 31, the clinic saw eight positive pediatric COVID cases. Previously, they'd see one to two total cases a month over the year with some months having zero.

"These viruses are going to circulate around humans who congregate and gather," Iversen added.

With school now back in session comes a new COVID vaccine, expected to be available in mid-September.

"We certainly recommend vaccination. We have seen vaccination save lives, and we are still going to be strong advocates of vaccine," Iversen said.

The vaccine is expected to be a single dose with boosters available during respiratory infection seasons.

"It doesn’t handle every symptom for every virus. We understand that, but what it does do, is they do their best to put what’s in that shot to handle what’s going on," Haun said.