Missoula City County Health Officer Ellen Leahy and her fellow department heads have been seeing a rapidly growing incidence of COVID 19 infections in various age groups over the past weeks, and are preparing a press briefing set for Tuesday.

She said Missoula started slow in September, but gathered steam as the fall rolled on.

“We had a very sharp spike from down to very, very low,” said Leahy. “We were very low going into September, and after about the third week it started picking up and then it did surge with a very sharp spike and then it looked like it might start to flatten but it did not, and in fact, it's been surging up again.”

Leahy said as the weather gets colder, the virus has begun its second wave of infections.

“That is generally what it's doing all over the country,” she said. “It's considered to be in the second wave in Montana which was hit very hard in the first wave. So we're really getting hit this time. It's very well seated in the community, meaning there's enough transmission and enough infection out there that it's much more easy to get infected than it was even a month ago.”

Leahy said senior citizens and those in assisted living are naturally more susceptible to viruses like COVID 19.

“The highest growth of incidence is in folks who are 80 or older,” she said “So there are folks that have been hit really hard in long term care facilities, independent and assisted living centers and they tend to have the worst outcomes. So I think that's the key; and yes, they are in congregate settings, but long term care facilities and assisted living and independent living facilities have all been taking special precautions to prevent the spread.”

Leahy said she and other health officials will be announcing new restrictions on Tuesday at a press conference.

“There'll be a press conference at one o'clock tomorrow,” she said. “The city and county communication directors are jointly putting that together, and based on consultations I've had with members of the Health Board, elected officials at the city in the county and our epidemiological experts. I'll be issuing new local orders and those will be announced tomorrow.”

On Monday,  Missoula County reported 153 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend. Of the 689 active cases, 52 are associated with University of Montana staff, faculty and students. Twenty-six people are hospitalized with COVID-related complications in Missoula County facilities, 14 of whom are county residents, and there have been 11 deaths.