MISSOULA — Local health officials have announced an easing of some of the COVID-19 restrictions that remain in place for Missoula County.
Missoula County Health Officer Ellen Leahy said on Friday morning that the disease and testing trends have improved over the past two weeks. As a result, salons, barbershops, body art, piercing, massage, spa, and similar businesses that have a social distancing plan can reopen on Monday, May, 11.
Additionally, the number of people allowed to gather in Missoula County – using social distancing -- has been increased to 50 people.
Leahy also noted that farmer's markets – using social distancing of six feet – will be allowed to open for up to 250 people on May 23. The market must have a plan to support social distancing, including the flow of customers and limiting the number of people in the market at one time.
Vendors must space tables six feet apart. Vendors, employees, and volunteers are required to screen for symptoms and have provisions for personal hygiene and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing.
Plans are in the works to decide upon graduation ceremonies in Missoula County and a social distancing plan must be in place.
Schools may hold graduation, providing that they have a plan to keep families separated by six feet and can limit the total number of people to 250 based on guidance for large gatherings. The schools must provide a plan to support social distancing, personal hygiene, and sanitation.
Click the following links for more specific information about the eased Missoula County COVID-19 guidelines:
- Requirements for Reopening Businesses and Events in Missoula County
- APPENDIX A to Missoula City-County Health Officer Order May 8, 2020
Leahy says that health officials are still reviewing new guidelines issued by Gov. Steve Bullock that will allow gyms and fitness studios, movie theaters and museums the option to reopen beginning Friday, May 15.
Health officials are urging people to continue social distancing practices and that people should continue to wear face masks to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.
Missoula County COVID-19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr noted that the health department does have what is needed in order to conduct tests on people who feel they may have COVID-19 symptoms.
Additional staffing is remaining in place at the health department in case COVID-19 returns to Missoula County and also to be ready in the event that a second wave of the coronavirus hits in the Fall.
“We are at a different place than we were on April 24 when the original orders were issued. We had nine active cases. We were still getting new cases of COVID, and we were following two dozen close contacts,” said Farr. “We are now at zero active cases and haven’t had a new case in over two weeks.”
Farr added that while the outbreak appears to be winding down that COVID-19 is still a risk. The health department encourages community members to practice personal and community protective measures.
Leahy said that she is pleased to be able to make the changes announced on Friday and also praised the cooperation of residents and businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
People with questions about how the local orders affect their business or organization can contact the Missoula City-County Health Department at (406) 258-4755.
The local orders will remain in place until Gov. Steve Bullock moves to Phase Two, or the health officer rescinds or modifies them.
Watch the full news conference below.
There are still 41 reported COVID-19 cases in Missoula County which remains unchanged since April 22. One COVID-19 related death has been reported. Local health officials say that 40 people have now recovered and there are currently no active COVID-19 cases in isolation.
The Montana Response COVID-19 tracking map showed there are 458 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Friday morning up from the 456 cases that had been reported on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The two new confirmed cases are being reported from West Yellowstone in Gallatin County.
Gov. Bullock announced on April 22 a phased re-opening plan for Montana. Many retail businesses have been up and running. Restaurants, bars, casinos, and breweries were allowed to become operational again on May 4.
Saying the city needs more time to prepare for a phased reopening and still lacks testing materials, the Missoula City-County Health Department on April 24 implemented guidelines more stringent than those issued under Gov. Bullock in his Phase 1 plans.
Gov. Bullock announced new guidelines on May 7 that will allow gyms and fitness studios, movie theaters and museums the option to reopen beginning Friday, May 15 as long as they adhere to strict guidelines.
We know the COVID-19 pandemic is changing our community. To keep you and your family informed as we move forward, we're beginning a new series of reports. They are stories that will help all of us navigate through these uncertain times. In the coming weeks and months, we'll be focusing on “The Rebound: Montana.”
It is a series of reports, videos, and information that show our commitment to stories that will help you as our communities begin to rebound - from what you'll need to know when it's time to go back to work, to how those in the community continue to step up and help others.