COVID in the county

Cases up after holidays as new CDC guidance goes into effect

Madison County’s active Covid-19 cases have hovered in the single digits and teens for the past few weeks, but that number is on the rise. Emilie Sayler, the county’s public health director, told commissioners at their Jan. 4 meeting that she’d just received 10 new cases the day before and around 10 Tuesday morning.

The jump in active Covid-19 cases mirrors what’s being seen across the nation and the state. Some Montana counties, said Sayler, are relating the uptick to the more infectious yet milder Omnicron variant. Others are pointing to the jump having have more to do with the virus spreading at holiday gatherings.

“So, we will wait and see the effect really is for us,” said Sayler. “So far, my hunch is that they are holiday gatherings, simply because of a lot of the cases that are coming through the last couple of days have the same last names.”

After a quiet November and December Sayler expects to be busy with new covid cases coming in. But judging by the current 3% test positivity rate, which indicates a lot of negative tests are coming through, there are other viruses at play.

Medical providers in the county have conveyed to the health department that they’ve seen an uptick in respiratory viruses circulating: RSV in adults and kids, the flu, and other cold-like viruses.

“We’re seeing a lot of negative tests from symptomatic people,” Sayler said. “That just means we’re in cold and flu season, and we do have a lot of respiratory viruses circulating right now.”

CDC Guidance

As has been done in the past, the Madison County Public Health Department will implement the CDC’s guidelines regarding isolation and quarantines.

Anyone who tests positive for covid will go into a five-day at home isolation period. If symptoms have resolved after that period, the individual can return to their normal public activities – with the recommendation they wear a mask for days six through 10. In the past a positive case required 10 days of at home isolation.

When it comes to those that have been in close contact with a positive case, quarantine guidelines have also changed. However, the guidance specifies between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals – a practice barred in Montana.

Sayler recommends close contacts stay home for five days following the contact, wear a mask, and get tested on the fifth day if possible. If they test positive the five-day isolation period begins. If negative, quarantine is over.

At Home Testing

The prompt for more testing poses a challenge said Sayler – finding a test. The county’s two medical centers have limited testing capacity. To aid in the process the MCPHD has been providing free at home test kits at its office in Virginia City. The kits are provided free of charge via the Montana Public Health Emergency Program.

So far nearly 200 at home test kits have been disbursed in the past few weeks, catching a handful of positive cases. They’re the same rapid tests county hospitals utilize, just packaged differently.

Another case of kits is on the way to the MCPHD, arriving this week. Sayler has been working with businesses, including the Ennis Pharmacy, to hand out the kits as well. Kits are also available to purchase in some pharmacies and online at around $25 for two tests.

A commission meeting attendee noted that they’d heard the at home tests “weren’t very good.” Sayler explained that the tests have been known to provide false negatives for those who have Covid-19 but are asymptomatic or test too early or too late.

“For people who are symptomatic, they are pretty good tests,” said Sayler, who has not seen a single false positive from a rapid test. “If you have cold symptoms and it tells you it’s positive, it’s pretty accurate.”

County nursing home update

Madison Valley Manor in Ennis remains in outbreak status following a staff member testing positive on Dec. 19. Two of the Manor’s 18 residents recently tested positive via surveillance testing and are in isolation; both are asymptomatic and fully vaccinated with a booster shot. No staff members are in quarantine.

Tobacco Root Medical Care Center in Sheridan, with 21 residents, is not in outbreak status.

COVID by the numbers

According to Montana Response Covid-19 dashboard data, current as of Jan. 4 at 11 a.m.:


Active cases: 12/28: 2,056 1/4: 3,738

Cumulative cases: 12/28: 196,453 1/4: 199,455

Active hospitalizations: 12/28: 121 1/4: 137

New cases in 24 hours: 12/28: 408 1/4: 935

Deaths: 12/28: 2,904 1/4: 2,911

Montanans fully immunized*: 12/28: 537,656 1/4: 540,453

Eligible population fully vaccinated*: 12/28: 53% 1/4: 53%

Madison County

Active cases: 12/28: 8 1/4: 27

Deaths: 12/28: 20 1/4: 20

Cumulative cases: 12/28: 1,428 1/4: 1,455

County residents fully immunized*: 12/28: 3,839 1/4: 3,839

Eligible population fully vaccinated*: 12/28: 45% 1/4: 45%

*Does not include booster shots

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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