Yellowstone County health officer extends order limiting gathering sizes

Watch Live: Yellowstone County health officer news conference Monday, Nov. 9
Posted at 6:54 PM, Nov 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 20:54:04-05

With COVID-19 cases continuing to show no signs of slowing down in Yellowstone County, County Health officer John Felton announced Monday that he is extending the current health order limiting indoor group gatherings to 25 or fewer people through Dec. 9, and he's not ruling out other measures.

Felton said at Monday’s news conference that tougher restrictions could be put into place soon depending on the recommendations of team of a medical-technical team from the Centers for Disease Control that is currently studying the situation in Yellowstone County, which continues to lead the state in COVID-19 cases.

“I can’t rule out the possibility that additional restrictions might be imposed as early as later this week, based on the analysis and recommendations of this team of clinicians,” Felton said.

Positive cases jumped from 36 per 100,000 at the start of October to 92 per 100,000 by Oct. 31 in Yellowstone County.

“We need to make every effort so that we can slow down this infection rate and keep our schools and businesses open,” said Felton.

Felton said that additional restrictions, if implemented, could include earlier hours for businesses as well as smaller occupancy measures. He also announced that a new process to enforce the governor’s health will begin Monday. Two people have been hired to investigate complaints and two more will be hired soon. People or businesses in violation will first receive educational information but could face charges if found in violation a second time.

Felton said that RiverStone Health is stressed due to the growing number of cases, with 650 cases yet to be assigned, and that the two hospitals in Billings are also becoming overwhelmed with the growing number of cases and patients.

Felton also had advice for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. He urged people to keep gatherings short and small, limit them to family, and observe proper social distancing and hygiene. He also says masks should be worn.

“What we don’t is another large influx a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving that would have people sick and hospitalized during Christmas and other holidays that happened during that period of time,” Felton said.

Watch the news conference below: