BUTTE, Mont. -- Butte-Silver Bow is seeing a troubling trend in rising COVID cases and hospitalizations despite being a county what a vaccination rate higher than the state of Montana as a whole.

Just last week, it was reported that other counties were relying on the hospitals in Butte to accept out-of-county COVID patients due to capacity limits. But with this surge in cases, resources for local patients are becoming the priority.

The latest information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows a 29% increase in total cases in Silver Bow County and a 44% increase in hospital admissions in the past week alone.

Although the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department was unavailable for comment on this story, it has gone on record recently saying that the COVID delta variant is a probable cause for the sudden spike, despite Silver Bow's high vaccination rate of 64%.

In terms of enforcing masking or vaccine mandates, the county's hands are tied.

Cindi Shaw, the chairperson for the county's Council of Commissioners, said that Silver Bow does not have the ability to enforce any sweeping preventative measures due to policies enacted by the governor. In turn, Shaw asks county residents to "do the right thing" by adhering to CDC and health department guidelines.

Shaw also mentioned that COVID-preventative policies lie in the hands of individual business and organizations. One example is the masking policy enacted by the Butte School District, which the school board voted to extend last month.

As for fighting the surge, the county health department continues to host vaccine clinics, and the goal in Silver Bow is to get the county vaccination rate to 70 or 80%.

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