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Phase 2 of vaccination plan begins

Starting April 1, Lewis and Clark Public Health will begin Phase 2 of the vaccination plan, providing vaccinations for all eligible residents.

."A few months ago, projections estimated Montanans 16 and older would be eligible for the vaccine as late as mid-July. Today, I'm pleased to announce that we're moving up that timeline. All Montanans 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on April 1st," Gov. Greg Gianforte said during a March 16 press conference when he announced the decision to move to Phase 2 vaccinations statewide.

The first Phase 2 vaccinations clinics are slated for April 6 and 7 at the Lewis and Clark county fairgrounds. A registration link to schedule appointments in Helena over the next six weeks will be posted Friday April 2 at the county's COVID-19 hub online at

For more information, residents an call the toll free Lewis and Clark County COVID-19 Hotline at (833) 829-9219.

The hotline is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and staff can help with appointments, information on second dose clinics and questions.

Lewis and Clark County has been in Phase 1B+ since March 8, when vaccinations opened to anyone over the age of 60 and to residents between 16 and 59 with medical conditions that put them at an elevated risk for COVID-19 complications.

The change to Phase 2 of the vaccination plan comes just days after the health official marked the anniversary of the first reported case of COVID 19 in Lewis and Clark County in 2020.

"Exactly one year ago today, our staff was notified of the first COVID-19 case in our county. From that point forward it felt like we were sucked into the vortex spun around and spit out, it was...a feeling that we all must have had starting last March," Public Health Officer Drenda Nieman said during the weekly COVID-19 community briefing Friday, March 26

As of as of Monday, March 29, Lewis and Clark county has recorded 6,547 cases and 71 deaths from the coronavirus. Statewide, COVID-19 reported to be the third leading cause of death in the state, behind heart disease and cancer.

According to the Lewis and Clark county COVID-19 hub, more than 32,000 doses of vaccine had been administered to county residents by Tuesday, March 23. That number included more 13, 522 people who have been fully vaccinated and 19,550 who havepartially vaccinated. There are 56,252 eligible residents in the county.

Dorota Carpenedo, the county COVID-19 epidemiologist, noted the vaccination progress led them to shift their expected timeframe for having 90percent of the county population vaccinated from early august to late July.

Based on the vaccinations supplies the county is currently receiving, Campbell said the county should reach the 70 percent benchmark, which is considered the herd immunity benchmark, by mid-June.

Recent improvements in the county's COVID-19 situation led health officials to drop most of the restrictions that have been in place, to varying degrees, since March 16, 2020. However they have retained the countywide mask mandate. During the community briefing Nieman explained the mask requirement is expected to remain in place into the near future. Although she said the 70 percent vaccination benchmark is considered a good goal for lifting the precautions, she was hesitant to provide a set percentage. She said they still have concerns about variant strains of COVID-19 and they are still waiting on data pertaining to vaccine efficacy and re-infections of vaccinated people.

"As we move through this process of vaccinating the public and also learning more about the variants, the board of health will continue to monitor and...will make those decisions about lifting the mask requirement," she said.


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