Sumary of Wildfire smoke drives people in low-vaccinated areas indoors, raising outbreak fears:
- Jul 22 2021 Missoula’s new downtown library was teeming with people who might typically spend a Saturday afternoon hiking, biking or otherwise making the most of Montana’s abundant outdoor recreation.
- The smoke and unrelenting heat pummeling the state have driven people to seek refuge at libraries, movie theaters, museums and other indoor venues.
- In areas with low covid-19 vaccination rates where people have largely abandoned masks and physical distancing, health officials are concerned the result will be covid outbreaks.
- Adding to that worry is the rise of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus, and research suggests that covid cases and deaths increase during periods of intense wildfire smoke.
- Missoula County has the highest vaccination rate in Montana, at 60%, but Whitney Kors was still mindful of the risks as she took her family to the library to get out of the smoke.
- However, health officials worry that not everyone seeking out smoke-free activities indoors this summer will take the same precautions if they are unvaccinated.
- To the north in Flathead County, Joe Russell, the county health officer, said he’s tracking a roughly 50% increase in covid cases over the past two weeks, mostly from unvaccinated people catching the virus at events.
- “These are activities that are happening specific to events or settings, and they are indoors,” he explained.