BOZEMAN — The Gallatin City-County Board of Health voted 7-to-2 Monday morning to extend the emergency face-covering rule until May 27.
“I’m hopeful that we will be able to rescind it sooner but I don’t want it to be a situation where we are left out of a mask mandate when we actually really need one,” said Christopher Coburn, board member.
Health Officer Matt Kelley reported COVID-19 cases in Gallatin County were trending upward since the last meeting and told board members he recommended keeping the mask rule.
Board members in support of keeping the mask rule and Kelley agreed they’d welcome revisiting the rule again in early May.
But board Member and Gallatin County Commissioner Joe Skinner said it’s time to start lifting the rules now.
“It’s time to let up on some of these restrictions. Hospitals in the county are not full of virus patients. There’s adequate capacity,” said Skinner.
“I don’t doubt that if we take away all of these restrictions that there will be a certain uptick in cases, but I don’t think we’re going to overwhelm the hospital because of it.”
The Board of Health also voted 8-1 to amend the Phase Two reopening rule, which increases the maximum party size at tables to 8 people for indoor group events and for restaurants, bars, coffee shops, bowling alleys, distilleries and casinos.
It also decreases the minimum distancing between bar stools from 6 feet to 3 feet.
“This is for me the hardest rule to find solutions to because it really impacts peoples’ livelihood in a number of ways and we take that really, very seriously,” said Kelley.
Capacity would remain at 50% for these establishments, but members of the Board said they plan to revisit the topic in early May.
The Board of Health also voted unanimously to rescind the Quarantine and Isolation Rule and to rescind the rules for limited visitation at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Gallatin County.
This removes the enforcement mechanism for the rules; however, the health officer order guidelines still stand.
“We’re gonna continue to do contact tracing, we’re going to continue to ask people to go into isolation and quarantine to reduce the risk of spread, and then we’re going to continue asking through my health officer order long-term care facilities to honor that 14 day rule,” said Kelley.