Health officials: Missoula Co. needs more time to prep for phased reopening

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Posted at 9:25 AM, Apr 28, 2020

MISSOULA — Missoula Health Officer Ellen Leahy issued additional local orders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Missoula following Gov. Steve Bullock's announcement rescinding the “stay at home” directive for individuals and some businesses.

The Missoula City-County Health Department opted to issue stricter guidance than Gov. Bullock, saying the city needs more time to prepare for a phased reopening.

Missoula health officials believe more time is needed to implement tools for a safe reopening. The local restrictions could be on Friday, May 1, if businesses adhere to several rules. However, salons, barber shops, massage studios, and spas will not reopen in Missoula County until Montana moves into the second phase of the state’s gradual reopening.

Missoula COVID-19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr says they received hundreds of responses online and emails requesting a slower reopening and more time to do it.

"There were very few who expressed confidence that they were prepared to reopen right now,” Farr said. “Most were concerned how they could practice social distancing with their business and wanted some additional guidance and some time to get prepared.”

“This group did include salon owners and stylists as well as retail operators. The decisions we made were not arbitrary. The businesses not allowed to open until phase two where all jobs with close physical contact and no way to social distance,” she added.

Events are limited to 25 people during the first phase in Missoula County -- including festivals, markets, private parties outside the home, and other events.

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