Missoula County votes on COVID-19 restrictions

Missoula City County Health Department
Posted at 11:49 AM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 19:27:54-05

The number of COVID-19 cases is continuing to climb locally.

Two weeks ago, Missoula County implemented new restrictions and revisited those rules on Thursday.

"Lives are more important than property right now,” Will Fesperman stated.

Gov. Steve Bullock ordered new restrictions to start on Friday, including closing restaurants and bars at 10 p.m., enforcing 50% capacity at those businesses, and also limiting group size to 25 people.

The Missoula County Board of Health has now updated the local rules, including more specific information on business capacity limits, and asking for a 10-day written notice for events.

Public Health Officer Ellen Leahy noted that daily incidents of new cases have improved the past three days, and the transmission rate is also improving -- but the numbers are still not here she would like to see them.

Officials had hoped two weeks ago that more restrictions would bring down the incident rate to 25 per 100,000, but we're not quite there yet. In fact, our incident rate is now higher than it was two weeks ago.

Missoula County reported an average daily incident rate of more than 50/100,000 new cases on Oct. 27. The county is now reporting an average incident rate of 67/100,000 new daily cases.

During Thursday’s public meeting one Missoulian urged the local officials to keep rules in place, saying that we don't know when -- or if -- the governor's orders will change.

"The landscapes going to be changing in the next few weeks, and we're probably going to be revisiting this,” noted the health board’s Ross Miller.

Public comment over the past week has been in favor of tightening the restrictions, with some even suggesting another lockdown, according to Missoula County officials.

"They are supportive of public health, and they want to do the right thing,” commented COVID-19 Response Public Information Officer Mary Parish

But she added that community members, especially business owners, are still thinking of the economic impacts. “They're also trying to balance serious financial circumstances."

Both new orders will begin on Friday, Nov. 20.

Click here to read the latest public order.

(first report)

The Missoula City-County Board of Health voted to adopt changes to the existing COVID-19 restrictions during a virtual meeting that was held Thursday afternoon as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the community.

A 10-day notice will be required for events and gatherings and also clarifies capacity limits at retail stores, gyms and places on assembly. Additionally, some county requirements are being brought in line with Gov. Steve Bullock's recent tighter restrictions.

Click here to read the latest public order.

Missoula County Public Health Officer Ellen Leahy opened the meeting by discussing COVID-19 trends and statistics. Leahy said that the daily incidence of new cases has improved the past three days while the transmission rate is also improving.

She added that a "worrisome rate” is that the test positivity rate is more than 18%, up from about 12% last week.

Testing has expanded to a full seven days a week and around 170 tests are being conducted per day. Leahy also noted that COVID-19 cases are still being migrated from the weekend into the new Montana tracking system.

Missoula hospital availability better than most of the state, according to Leahy.

Watch the full press conference below:

COVID-19 restrictions discussed in Missoula

Public health officials report receiving about 1,000 emails and 30 phone calls this week about the proposal. The general sentiment of comment according to the presentation showed roughly 70% showed support for the proposal.

Additionally, public comment showed that people are concerned about public health and want to balance those concerns with financial and economic worries.

Event requests larger than 250 people -- including the annual Parade of Lights, the Goodfellows Thanksgiving Dinner, winter markets, and sporting events -- are still be reviewed by the health department.

- information from Katie Miller and Mark Thorsell included in this report.