Missoula Co. health officials discuss rising COVID-19 cases

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Posted at 5:20 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 13:27:07-04

MISSOULA — Montana added more than 700 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday pushing the total number of active cases to nearly 3,900.

The Montana COVID-19 tracking website shows 50% of eligible Montanans are considered fully vaccinated, equal to more than 457,000 people. Overall, more than 931,000 total doses of the vaccine have been administered in the state.

Gov. Greg Gianforte made a point of vaccines during a Tuesday news conference – again referring again to personal responsibility.

"Let me be very clear. The State of Montana will not mandate COVID vaccinations, period. It is a personal choice that should be made in consultation with a medical provider."

That sentiment was made clear by the Montana Legislature this year when it passed, and the governor ultimately signed, House Bill 702, which "prohibits discrimination based on a person's vaccination status."

HB 702 has created problems for local health departments and was the subject of a special Tuesday Missoula Board of Health meeting as Montana is the only state in the nation to ban vaccination mandates.

The board unanimously voted to continue following US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance and quarantine unvaccinated close contacts, but not vaccinated close contacts.

The vote came after a discussion of whether the city should follow the state legislature or CDC guidelines as it pertains to COVID safety measures. Board chair Ross Miller says it comes down to doing the right thing.

"As best we can to try to do the right thing. And if that means that we invite a lawsuit because of some poorly crafted legislation that thought this virus pandemic was gonna go away as soon as they could adjourn. So be it."

The health board will meet regularly as the CDC releases new COVID protocols.