Gallatin County-City Health Commission decided on Friday to implement stricter health rules in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Indoor and outdoor group meetings are currently limited to 25 people, regardless of social distance capability. There are significant exemptions, including schools, organized youth activities and places of worship.
In the past, the board allowed groups of up to 50 people with no social distance, and larger groups if everyone could be scattered.
Bars, tasting rooms, distilleries, casinos and restaurants are currently closed at 10 p.m. – 2.5 hours earlier than previously allowed. New hourly free shipping and shipping services. The group size at the tables was reduced from 10 to six.
Businesses considered a higher risk, such as gyms, bars, restaurants and cafes, must now reduce capacity from 75% to 50%.
Gallatin County-City Health Officer Matt Kelley said the new restrictions are intended to limit contact between people who may not interact.
“I think this has put us in a better position,” he said. “… Now, we have businesses that are sacrificing again, and I hope we all take this seriously and turn it into a problem by… reducing the number of cases. “
Dozens of residents submitted comments before and during Friday’s six-hour medical board meeting on the new restrictions.
People reported concerns about the need to balance concerns about COVID-19 with the mental health consequences of reduced social interaction and the economic consequences of limited working hours and capacity. .
Some business owners say changing closing times will result in people attending more house parties, receiving less supervision and cutting their profits to the point where they will have to. shut down or fire employees.
Some say the new restrictions don’t go far enough.
Others urge the board to better enforce existing rules like masking duties rather than setting new rules. Some people said the board was overreacting and picking up the data to make the virus seem worse than it really was.
The Board unanimously approved the rule, although board members Justin Kamerman and Joe Skinner, both of which voted against the enactment of health restrictions previously, were absent.
Board Chairman Becky Franks said: “This is difficult. “These decisions should not be taken lightly.”
The new rules are a response to a continued increase in COVID-19 cases.
According to the county’s weekly COVID-19 report per 100,000 residents was 107.6 cases on Thursday, up 31.5% from a week earlier.
Cases are occurring throughout the county and in all age groups, although the increase in cases is faster in the age group 20 to 29.
The county is also seeing an increase in hospital admissions and hits a record 19 on Thursday.
Mark Williams, medical director of Bozeman Health, said the healthcare system is capable of taking care of patients with COVID-19 and not COVID-19. However, he said he is concerned about the rising infection rate coupled with the number of medical workers quarantined due to exposure to the virus.
During the last month, Gallatin County reported 6 out of 10 deaths from its COVID-19.
“There are sides to these numbers, and I don’t want to lose track of them,” said Kelley.
Montana State University reported 212 new cases this week out of a total of 725 since follow-up began on August 1. Twenty-two K-12 schools have a total of 40 active cases. to Friday.
Kelley said the number of cases in schools reflects how widespread the virus is in the district. He says he doesn’t see evidence that schools are driving the COVID-19 increase in progress.
As cases increase, finding a contact becomes more difficult. Health departments can no longer warn of any close exposure about their potential exposure and instead focus on reaching people who are in close contact at higher risk, such as the elderly and adults. health care staff.
“We’re trying our best to keep up, but we’re not keeping up the way I want it to be,” said Kelley.
The percentage of tests that are positive has tended to increase for weeks and is now 18.7%, indicating that the county has not done enough tests and disease is spreading.
The test system is strained, Kelley said. Although the average turnaround time for test results is two days, he says he is hearing an anecdote that some people don’t get a result in three to seven days. There is also a shortage of supplies.
Gallatin seed did not alone witnessed a spike in cases of COVID-19.
Cases are on the rise across Montana. As of Friday, there were 13,921 active cases statewide with 23,607 recovery cases, 419 deaths, and 437 active hospitalizations.
Several hospitals – particularly in Billings and Great Falls – are struggling to meet demand, and state officials have been asking the federal government to provide additional health care workers.
In recent weeks, a number of other counties have implemented new restrictions. Cascade County has reduced capacity and working hours at many businesses and Missoula and Yellowstone counties have limited most gatherings to 25 people.
Other counties, like Flathead County, have rejected the new restrictions.
Also on Friday, the Gallatin City-District Board of Health expanded an existing rule to restrict visits to long-term care facilities. Local nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and assisted and premium living facilities can continue to welcome visitors if they comply with requirements including COVID cases- 19 for at least 28 days.
The Board first implemented the rule of examination in August when the number of active coronavirus infections in Gallatin County was much lower. The rule, which has been set to end this week, is in effect for another three months.
Kelley said that while COVID-19 cases are on the rise, it makes sense to allow visitors to long-term care facilities because visitors are not the source of outbreaks in those places and for tourists. important to the health of residents.