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Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana, on Nov. 11, 2020. Photo: Lynn Donaldson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A veterans medical facility in Montana is planning to accept non-eligible patients as a COVID-19 surge overwhelms nearby hospitals in the state, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The move underscores the dire health situation in Montana due to the latest COVID-19 case surge, where some hospitals in the state have started to consider rationing care, according to the Montana Free Press.

Driving the news: "With more hospital beds available, hospitals now have another tool in their toolbox to treat Montanans in need of care as their systems are strained," Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) said Friday in a statement.

  • The additional hospital beds at Fort Harrison VA Medical Center will be used to treat patients with COVID-19 and those without — individuals who otherwise would not be able to be treated at a VA hospital.
  • FEMA this week approved the agreement for the state to use the open beds at the medical center.

By the numbers: Montana experienced a COVID-19 positivity rate this week between 15 and 19.9%, making it one of five states with the highest case rate as of Friday, according to CDC data.

  • The state is using 46% of its adult intensive care unit beds to treat patients with COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • About 52% of Montana's eligible population is fully vaccinated, per state data.

What they're saying: "While this is another important tool, the best solution to this crisis remains Montanans talking with their doctor or pharmacist and getting vaccinated against COVID-19," Gianforte said on Friday.

  • "We will not mandate vaccination in Montana, but these vaccines are safe, they work, and they can save your life."

Go deeper

23 hours ago - Health

Louisiana lifts mask mandate except for some schools

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. Photor: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Louisiana's statewide mask mandate is lifting for all settings except for some schools starting on Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced.

The big picture: The requirement has been in place since early August as the Delta variant surged across the state. Edwards tweeted Tuesday there had been a "sustained improvement across the state in new cases, test positivity & hospitalizations."

Updated Oct 26, 2021 - Health

Prime minister flags vaccine mandate for 40% of New Zealand workforce

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during an October COVID-19 briefing in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Robert Kitchin - Pool/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses, as the government pushes to reach a nationwide 90% vaccination target.

Why it matters: Under the new COVID-19 Protection Framework, businesses must require vaccine certificates from customers if they're in close contact with them. Ardern said at a briefing Tuesday that such venues wishing to operate, including hair salons, bars, restaurants and gyms, must ensure staff is vaccinated.

Oct 26, 2021 - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.