Ravalli County enacts state of emergency over coronavirus outbreak

Posted at 9:36 AM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 13:31:56-04

HAMILTON — Ravalli County commissioners are enacting an emergency declaration over the coronavirus outbreak, but stressing the board is not ordering business closures and other "social changes".

"There's been a lot of talk and concern in the community," Commissioner Chris Hoffman said during the special session Friday morning. "It's not within the authority of the Board of County Commissioners to close businesses or shutdown society in any shape or form.

Instead, Hoffman noted it's the job in a public health emergency "for the county's health officer to take those steps".

To that end, Commissioner Jeff Burrows said he was recommending that County Health Officer Carol Calderwood take over as the Incident Commander of the Incident Management Team that was formed earlier this week.

Commissioners said they appreciate the people who are taking "positive steps" already to combat any spread of the virus, including restaurants who have voluntarily closed their dining rooms.

Commissioner Jeff Burrows believes those measures are "a big part of the reason" Ravalli County hasn't seen a confirmed COVID-19 case.

"We would encourage people to remain calm", Hoffman said, urging people to not overbuy groceries and other supplies. "That's not the Bitterroot."

The step comes just days after the county implemented an Incident Management Team to bring together the county and other agencies to craft a response to the growing emergency.

That was seen as a way to bring all partners together to consider solutions, but also to improve communications between agencies and the public.

As of Friday morning, Ravalli County remained one of the counties in Montana that had no positive COVID-19 cases.

Click here to read the full emergency resoultion.