The report also showed Native people in Montana were four times more likely to die from the infection

 NOVEMBER 1, 2021 1:39 PM

 COVID-19 vaccine is stored at -80 degrees celsius in the pharmacy at Roseland Community Hospital on Dec. 18, 2020 in Chicago. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)


COVID-19 is expected to be the third leading cause of death in Montana for the second consecutive year in 2021 with Native Americans four times more likely to die from the infection than white residents, according to a new report released by the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

From Jan. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, DPHHS recorded 2,100 COVID-19 deaths in Montana — 1,258 in 2020 and 842 in the first nine months of 2021. Of those deaths, 69 percent also had an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, diabetes or another respiratory disease.

Public health officials have repeatedly called for more Montanans to get vaccinated. As of Monday, around 55 percent of state residents were fully vaccinated.

“I can’t stress enough that these COVID-19 related deaths are almost entirely preventable,” said DPHHS acting State Medical Officer Dr. Maggie Cook-Shimanek in a news release announcing the report. “Vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19 infection and at preventing severe COVID-19 outcomes, such as hospitalization and death.”

The state reported 1,137 new cases and 20 new deaths on Monday. According to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker Montana has an average daily death rate per 100,000 of 1.32 — the highest in the country. It also has the highest number of average daily hospitalizations per 100,000 people with a rate of 42; and the second-highest average daily cases per 100,000 people with a rate of 71.

While mortality rates by age group, sex, and race in Montana were lower compared to the rest of the U.S., the COVID-19 mortality rate among Native persons in Montana was 108% higher than Native persons in the U.S.

The median age of COVID-19 deaths among non-native people was 78 years with the youngest recorded death being 24 and the oldest 103. Among the Native population, the median age of death was 68, with the youngest being 30 and the oldest 97. The mortality rate was also 56 percent higher among males than females in Montana.

Prior to the pandemic, the leading causes of death in Montana were heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, cerebrovascular disease and non‐motor vehicle accidents. Heart disease and cancer remain the top two leading causes of death in the state, according to the report.

“These data indicate that COVID-19 remains a leading cause of death in Montana. Presently, COVID-19 mortality is, largely, preventable,” the report read. “In addition to vaccination, DPHHS encourages all Montana residents and visitors to exercise personal responsibility and take precautionary measures to slow the spread of the virus, including wearing a face covering when appropriate, avoiding large crowds, staying home when not feeling well, and washing hands frequently.”