Flathead Co. Public Health Officer discusses health order process

Posted at 4:36 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 18:36:50-04

KALISPELL — The Flathead County Health Board recently voted 5-to-3 against an order limiting event size in Flathead County to 500 people last week, despite a rise in COVID-19 cases.

MTN News spoke with Flathead County Public Health Officer Tamalee Robinson who admits challenges in passing public health orders.

“Montanan’s are fiercely independent people, that’s why a lot of us live here, that’s why I enjoy living here, but at times it makes public health initiatives a little bit difficult to achieve,” Robinson said.

She told MTN News that health board members are re-working further measures to prevent community spread of COVID-19 after new restrictions were voted against at last week’s board meeting.

“We’re in the process of re-writing the event limit size right now and hopefully will make a couple tweaks to pieces that people on the board objected to, and hopefully will give that another shot,” Robinson stated.

Robinson says authorizing a new health order is not cut and dry, with a number of factors needing to be worked out before the order is voted upon.

She said the health department needs to make sure the order is legal, will be enforced by law enforcement and the Flathead County Attorney’s Office -- and will be defendable in a court of law.

“The health officer just doesn’t make an order and then it’s the rule of the land, it’s not a simple as that,” Robinson said.

She says Flathead Health Board members are working on better understanding each other’s viewpoints before new COVID-19 measures are acted upon. “We just got to work it through."

Robinson says a high number of COVID-19 exposures in the Flathead are linked to large social gatherings in indoor spaces.