March 19 COVID-19 updates: health officer orders restrictions on bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, etc.; city declaring sate of emergency; changes at city attorneys office, animal shelter and Municipal Court; downtown metered parking enforcement suspended; Lewis and Clark Trail Mixer postponed; GFCMSU changing access, operations
Tonight, Gov. Steve Bullock today confirmed four positive cases of COVID-19 in Montana.
- The Yellowstone County patient is a female in their 20s.
- The Yellowstone County patient is a male in their 20s.
- The Yellowstone County patient is a male in their 20s.
- The Roosevelt County patient is a female in their 70s, acquired through international travel.
The tests, conducted by the DPHHS Public Health Laboratory, were confirmed Wednesday evening.
Today’s additional cases brings Montana’s total number of cases to 15.
DPHHS and the local county health departments are immediately following up to learn more details about the two individual’s exposure risk, travel history, and to identify and communicate with anyone who may have been in close contact with the patients.
All patients will be isolated or quarantined pursuant to public health guidelines. Those who came into close contact with the individuals will be monitored for 14 days for fever and respiratory symptoms per CDC guidance.
The number of tests performed are updated daily here: https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusmt
Cascade County City-County Health Department
The county health officer, Trisha Gardner, has issued an order closing all bars, coffee bars, breweries and distillery tasting rooms, casinos, restaurants, bowling alleys, gyms, movies theaters and other commercial businesses in which people assemble for recreation with the exception of drive-through, delivery and pick-up services within Cascade County beginning 6 a.m. March 20 through 8 a.m. March 27 pending further notification.
“At this point, it is not possible to say whether the current health officer order will remain in place or be modified. Given the rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19, and its rapid spread throughout the community, state, nation and world, completely rescinding the order and returning to business as usual on March 27 will not happen, and it should be expected by business owners or operators,” Gardner said during a March 19 press conference.
There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cascade County, but there are several suspected cases.
On March 18, a group of bar and restaurant owners met and developed list of proposed guidance for what carry-out operations would like since the order was otherwise vague and business owners said that would cause every establishment to implement it differently. They asked the health department for guidance, but staff said they were swamped and it would take about a week for them to develop it. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the business owners offered during March 17 Board of Health meeting to develop proposed guidance by the next day.
March 18 COVID-19 updates: four more positive cases in Montana; gun show canceled; OPI requests waivers; governor adapts unemployment, small business loans; Rec Center closing; updated GFPS meal pickup locations; take-out options; to-go art from Brush Crazy
During the same BOH meeting, a dentist on the board said the American Dental Association recommending closing their practices but being available for emergencies. Matt Martin, the dentist, said the Montana dental association hadn’t given guidance but said he had decided to close down his practice other than emergencies.
According to CCHD, their environmental health manager was reviewing the proposal and considering guidance from other health and government agencies to formalize the guidance that would be released by CCHD.
City of Great Falls
The City of Great Falls has declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19 effective March 19.
“The state of emergency is a proactive move to get ahead of contingencies once the virus hits Great Falls,” according to a release.
Once affirmed by the City Commission, the declaration gives the city manager additional authority to protect the public from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The declaration also authorizes the city manager to enact temporary measures to provide relief and grants the city manager authority to make sure that the city is being resourced properly so it may continue to provide essential services. The order will not necessarily free up any additional funding for the city because the president and the governor have already declared emergencies, according to the release.
City Manager Greg Doyon said he’s working with commissioners to schedule a special commission meeting on March 23 to finalize the resolution for the state of emergency and have commissioners vote on it. The commisson has
“While we are all taking extraordinary steps to slow the virus down, more action may be necessary to protect Great Falls citizens,” according to the release.
An immediate action Doyon has taken under the state of emergency is to suspend enforcement of downtown metered and timed parking spaces effective immediately. The Parking Division will continue to enforce ADA parking and any public safety parking issues, such as blocked fire hydrants or blocking “no parking” zones.
“Parking garages and surface lots will maintain normal operations and enforcement. Staff is requesting that residents be aware of and respect business operations and to not unnecessarily take on-street parking spots for long periods of time. These measures are an effort to support our downtown businesses that are quickly adapting their operations to more take-out and curbside services amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the city planning department.
For questions or more information, contact SP+ Parking at 406-727-7828.
Doyon said that for the most part, there wouldn’t be many immediate changes related to the declaration, but it’s a preemptive step to plan for a response in the event that a positive case presents in Cascade County and a more significant response is required.
Doyon said city officials are preparing to open to city’s emergency operations center, but haven’t done so yet. Doyon said that he’s taking steps to open the main EOC location, but also alternate locations in case critical staff need to social distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring city operations continue.
Doyon said that in the event the city needs to request resources through the state or other government agencies, the emergency declaration would be a factor.
The city is also working to identify essential personnel and plan for limited operations to reduce the spread of COVID-19, while still providing essential city services.
“There’s no doubt we’re going to try to minimize the impact,” so that citizens have the necessary access, he said.
City Attorney’s Office
In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Great Falls Criminal Division office in the Civic Center, Room 101, will be closed to the public until further notice.
Essential staff will be available to provide services with as little interruption as is possible. Customer Service functions, as much as is possible, will be performed over the phone, by mail or email, rather than in person.
Deferred Prosecution Eligibility
If you have received a citation and wish to determine whether you are eligible for a deferred prosecution of the citation, please call (406) 455-8538, (406) 455-8535, or (406) 455-8536 and either speak to a representative of the Criminal Division or leave a message with your name, phone number, citation number and date of citation. Alternatively, you can mail a copy of your citation to the City of Great Falls Criminal Division, at the above address. If you choose to mail a copy, please ensure that you keep your original citation and do not mail it. Also, questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org, but please recognize that unless you provide encrypted or otherwise protected email, any confidential information which you transmit will not be protected.
Police Record Requests
If you are requesting copies of police records, please go to “Requests for Police Records.” Please print out the document entitled “City Attorney’s Office Document Request Form” and fully complete the form. Please mail the original signed form, along with the $15.00 administrative fee, to the address noted above.
If you have questions regarding police records, call (406) 455-8578, or email email@example.com.
Based on recommendations provided by the Cascade City-County Health Department, the social distancing directive by Gov. Steve Bullock, and to maintain the health of our community, the City of Great Falls Animal Shelter is instituting several protective measures. The following measures are effective immediately:
- Animal licensing and permitting will be done by phone only. Customers needing to renew their pet’s license or complete an animal/bee permit are asked to call the shelter to receive these services.
- Kennel Viewing and Adoptions will be conducted by appointment only. Customers wanting to view/adopt animals at the Great Falls Animal Shelter should call and schedule an appointment first. Walk-ins will not be allowed at this time.
- Stray intakes and redemptions will continue as usual at this time. The Animal Shelter will continue to take in strays and allow customers to be reunited with their lost pets that are housed at the Animal Shelter. We encourage any potential customers to call the shelter first for staff availability.
For more information about the City of Great Falls Animal Shelter’s COVID-19 protective measures, contact the Animal Shelter at 406-454-2276.
No open court until further notice.
Due to the recent request for social distancing there will be NO open court as of March 16. Failure to make requests may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest for failure to appear/comply. Please read below on how to request what you need. If you have any questions, call at 406-771-1380. If you have access to email, phone, or mail court staff encourages you to utilize these options first before coming down to the window.
Here are some answers to the questions you may have.
Ways to pay…
- Online at citepayusa.com (Choose Great Falls Municipal Court) The only way you can pay online is if you have already made an initial appearance on your citation.
- Pay through the mail
- Appearing at our window between 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
The court will be granting all extensions you just need to stay in contact. Here is how you can request an extension for payments, appearing, and court requirements.
- You can email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Through the mail PO Box 5021 Great Falls, MT 59403
- Through the fax and our fax number is 406-727-8069
- Through phone 406-771-1380
- Appearing at our window between 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Great Falls Public Library
Following the recommendations of the local county health department and the CDC, the Great Falls Public Library is cancelling all events for the next eight weeks, including the 2020 Festival of the Book, which was scheduled for early May.
“While we are heartbroken to do so, we know that the health and welfare of our patrons and guests is paramount. We hope that everyone will keep in mind that writers and artists often rely on personal appearances to help pay the bills, and things like health insurance aren’t part of the package. Please, when and if you are able, support your local authors, artists, and booksellers,” according to a post from the library.
Trail Mixer postponed
The Lewis and Clark Foundation is postponing their annual Trail Mixer Auction and dinner to Sept. 22 and the Portage Cache Store and Foundation officer will close temporarily due to COVID-19.
The event was initially scheduled for April 21, but will now be in the fall at the Mansfield Convention Center.
“We already have much of the event ready to go, and it will be relatively simple to move the date to Sept. 22,” Jay Russell, executive director for the foundation said in a release.
This is the event’s 15th year.
Russell also said that “we plan to do our part with social distancing, and therefore the Lewis and Clark Foundation offices, including the Portage Cache Store, will be closed until further notice, effective immediately.”
For questions or more information, please call 406-452-5661, or 406-799-8183.
Great Falls College MSU limiting access
To limit the spread of COVID-19, as of March 20, Great Falls College MSU is limiting access to its campus. Every precaution is being taken in areas still open to maintain distance and sanitation, according to a release.
Student Central (Admissions, Advising, Financial Aid, Records, and Student Accounts) still will be available through March 27, for in-person student assistance. Beginning March 30, operations in Student Central will be limited.
As of March 30, the only on-campus service available to the public will be the Testing Center.
Since Great Falls College is beginning its second eight-week block of the spring semester March 23, we recognize that students will need to purchase books, use the library and conduct other business to prepare for classes. However, services will be limited to those deemed strictly essential. This will promote a safer environment for both the students who have to come to campus and the employees required to work on campus to serve them.
“We are facing an intensifying public health crisis in our country, in Montana, and on our campuses,” wrote Clayton Christian, Commissioner of Higher Education, in a letter to Gov. Steve Bullock, the Montana Board of Regents and Montana University System campus leaders late Wednesday evening. “As the Montana University System, we are totally committed to supporting the health and safety of our students and employees. This means that we must make every effort to implement effective social distancing and crisis management strategies that have been outlined by state and federal authorities.”
Almost all classes will be conducted remotely with a limited number of exceptions that require in-person instruction, such as a few trades classes and labs, according to a release. Students should contact their instructors with specific questions about their classes.
Great Falls College is closing the Weaver Library to the public but students of any Montana State-affiliated campus, staff and faculty can access it. The library is checking out Chromebooks for students who don’t have computers at home so they can access online instruction. The computer terminals in the Weaver Library and computer labs (B127 and B128) on campus will remain open and will be monitored to ensure social distancing takes place and that the equipment is disinfected after each use.
The Native American Enrichment Center and the Veterans Center will be closed physically, but directors Kathy Meier and Kevin Lyons will explore ways to make sure that the camaraderie, teamwork and family atmosphere created in those spaces continues.
Kathy Meier will ensure that instructors receive students’ Disability Services paperwork, and she will be available to work with new students at 406-771-4311 and email@example.com .
The Academic Success Center, which provides free tutoring for students, will continue normal operations for those seeking help with classes, but Director Charla Merja is exploring ways for some of that to move online and ensuring students are spread out when on campus and that spaces are disinfected after each use. Anatomical models still will be available and disinfected thoroughly after each use.
The Testing Center will remain open to students and the public but will move to online proctoring when possible for distance students and equipment will be disinfected after each use. Reach out to Charla Merja at 406-771-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org or the Testing Center at 406-268-3711 or email@example.com with questions or to make an appointment.
Bookstore staff members are encouraging students to call ahead to request their materials be gathered for a quick pick-up. Mail delivery is also an option for students needing to stay home. Starting March 30, store hours will be limited so students are encouraged to call ahead before coming in.
The Lifelong Learning Center’s spring classes have been canceled or rescheduled and is closed to the public beginning Friday, March 20, but the Lifelong Learning team will remain available online and by phone. For more information, please visit the Lifelong Learning website at gfcmsu.edu/lifelonglearning or follow the Center’s Facebook page for updates.
The Career and College Readiness Center is closed to the public. It can be reached at 406-771-5108 and firstname.lastname@example.org.