GREAT FALLS — Cascade County’s current COVID-19 restrictions could soon be lifted. As of Thursday, February 11, the case rate in the county had been lower than 25 per 100,000 residents for three weeks.
If the rate holds until Feb. 17, the restrictions (details) will be lifted. If the rate doesn’t hold, a new four-week waiting period will begin. The case rate has to be less than 25 per 100,000 residents for four straight weeks before the restrictions can be lifted, according to the City-County Health Department in Great Falls.
The current restrictions do not include a mask mandate, but county health officials may meet next week and decide to require masks. Cascade County removed its Jan. 6 mask mandate on Jan. 21. If the Board of Health decides to implement a mask mandate, that requirement would stay in place even if the other COVID restrictions are lifted.
CCHD health officer Trisha Gardner said masks will be more important than ever if the current COVID restrictions are lifted, and because the state’s mask mandate will be lifted by Gov. Greg Gianforte on Feb .12. He added that county and municipal jurisdictions may choose to continue their own mask mandates.
"If you're having more freedom of movement, everything else, the masks become even more important. They do help reduce the transmission,” said Gardner.
As of Thursday, the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) was recommending that people consider wearing two masks instead of just one.
Asked if the county would require people to wear two masks if a mask mandate is put in place, Gardner said that would be her recommendation.
“I don’t know if that would be a requirement. That’s going to be a tough one, to even be able to see if somebody has two masks on,” Gardner pointed out. “There’s also different masks with filters and ways around that, so that presents a lot of problems.”
If a mask mandate is implemented, there will be a threshold for lifting it but what the threshold will be had not been discussed as of Thursday.