Local restrictions in place as COVID-19 cases increase
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Local governments and agencies are placing restrictions on gatherings and are urging residents to wear masks as the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Montana continues to increase.
Another eight people associated with Canyon Creek Memory Care in Billings have tested positive for COVID-19, the facility said. Wednesday. The new positive cases include six staff members and two residents. With the new cases, Canyon Creek's case total rises to 66 — 45 residents and 21 employees.
The Chippewa Cree Tribe implemented a seven-day lockdown that began Wednesday for all but essential services and is requiring residents to self-quarantine during that time. The tribe is shutting down all tribal operations and businesses, and limiting the number of people who come to or leave the reservation in north-central Montana, according to the resolution.
The Whitefish City Council adopted a resolution on Monday encouraging mask use while Lewis and Clark Public Health set stringent guidelines for events with between 50 and 249 attendees and is now prohibiting events with more than 250 attendees to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
A private outdoor prom for juniors and seniors at Helena's two high schools that had been planned for Wednesday evening was canceled, the Independent Record reported.
The Montana University System's health task force decided Wednesday to recommend people on the campuses of the state's public universities wear masks, the Missoulian reported.
The recommendation does not result in actual policy, but makes it “much easier for individual universities to have a mask policy,” said Dave Krueger, dean of the College of Technical Sciences at Montana State University-Northern in Havre.
Brock Tessman, deputy commissioner of higher education for academic, research and student affairs, said his office would start working with state and local officials and university administrators to create the policy, including when it would apply and how it would be enforced.
The Missoula City-County Board of Health is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposed mask mandate for all public indoor spaces to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Montana reported 44 more cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total number of known cases to 1,371.
There are nearly 600 residents who are currently infected with the respiratory virus, including 190 in Gallatin County. Twenty-two people are hospitalized, and 23 people have died.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.
In Lewis and Clark County, the health department's order regulating gatherings went into effect Wednesday and will be enforced via complaints made to law enforcement. Officers will not break up any gatherings. But they will document any violations, and the county attorney office will determine if they should be prosecuted, the order states.
“It’s unfortunate that public health has to be the heavy hand," health officer Drenda Niemann said. "It’s unfortunate that the community isn’t stepping in.”
Denise Wolf, a representative of the nonprofit group organizing the Helena prom, said she felt the order was retaliatory, although Niemann said they had been working up guidelines for large events for over a month.
Wolf said she had to notify 400 teens that their prom had been canceled — again.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.