Malmstrom revises dining policy; vaccine arrives in Great Falls; GFPS COVID numbers decreasing

Malmstrom Air Force Base has changed its indoor dining policy, effective immediately, allowing military members to dine indoors at restaurants where tables are six feet apart and they must leave before 8 p.m.

“I’m happy to announce that we are implementing new guidance, starting today, that seeks to maintain balance while allowing our airmen more latitude,” Col. Anita Feugate Opperman, 341st Missile Wing commander, said in a release. “Nine months is a long time under these unique and challenging conditions, but I am proud of the way in which we’ve upheld our values while maintaining readiness to execute the mission.”

CCHD announces 9 more COVID-19 deaths in Cascade County; case rate coming down

According to an email that went to military members, the base is defining restaurant as establishments who’s primary business is food service and has an attached kitchen.

Visiting casinos, bars and movie theaters is still prohibited for active duty military, according to a Malmstrom release.

U.S. Surgeon General in Montana, encourages COVID-19 vaccine; Montana cases declining, though active cases still high in Cascade County

Cascade County added 109 cases on Dec. 15, which includes some from the previous day when the state did a system upgrade and new cases weren’t shown in the state map.

The county’s total is now 6,086 and of those, 1,302 are currently active, according to the state map. There have been 91 COVID-19 related deaths of county residents, according to the Cascade County City-County Health Department.

State releases plan for initial shipment of COVID-19 vaccine

As of Dec. 15, there were 42 active cases associated with Great Falls Public Schools.

Benefis Health System and the Great Falls Clinic received their allotment of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 15.

The Clinic received 500 total doses and will administer the first vaccine Wednesday afternoon to employees. Benefis will begin vaccinating employees on Thursday.

During the Dec. 15 City Commission meeting, Trisha Gardner, county health officer, said that the positivity rate in the county was now 19.6 percent, which is up slightly from last week’s number when it was 18.8 percent.

The average rate of new daily cases held at 88 per 100,000, she said.

Gardner said the COVID-19 vaccine was arriving in Great Falls and that CCHD has been in touch with Great Falls Fire Rescue about getting them immunized in the first rounds of doses.

Gardner told commissioners that there is a tracking system in place for the vaccine for demographics on how it’s being administered.

Mayor Bob Kelly asked if the community was seeing the spike from the Thanksgiving holiday. Garner said the community isn’t quite out of the woods since they expect to see spikes from those kind of holidays two to four weeks after since many people spread the virus asymptomatically.

Commissioner Rick Tryon said he’d heard CCHD had a “Karen line” for people to report businesses anonymously for noncompliance with COVID regulations.

Gardner said there were several ways for people to report noncompliance. One is the state portal that Gov. Steve Bullock announced in October and refers complaints to local jurisdictions for investigation. People can also contact CCHD directly to report violations of the COVID-19 regulations.

Gardner said that they encourage people to leave their name and number but not everyone does. She said her staff then reaches out to the business to look into the report and go from there.

During the Dec. 15 meeting, Gardner said they had not levied any fines for noncompliance. As of Dec. 16, she told The Electric that they’d received 334 complaints and eight letters of correction had been issued.

“We will continue to try to educate business and work with them to come into compliance. Our goal is to keep everyone in business while keeping everyone safe and our hope is that businesses will continue to do the right thing for the safety of our community,” Gardner said.

Cascade County officials considering stricter COVID-19 regulations, Board of Health set to meet next week

During the Dec. 14 GFPS school board meeting, Superintendent Tom Moore said that as of Monday, there were 515 people within the district isolated or quarantined.

CCHD revises quarantine guidelines; announces four COVID-19 deaths

That’s down from 1,188 in mid-November when the district decided to go remote for the week before Thanksgiving due to so many teachers and students being out of classrooms.

Moore said that there have been 44-59 active cases daily within the district since returning to school Nov. 30, and the number of teachers out has been 24-28 daily, or about 3 percent.

GFPS watching COVID-19 situation as planned return to classrooms approaches

Moore said the numbers have declined and that the temporary closure was effective.

He said that AA superintendents are working with the Montana High School Association to monitor COVID numbers as winter sports are scheduled to begin competition Jan. 7-8.

Practices have begun for GFPS and teams are keeping their practices to 25 people or less. That has the swim team at C.M. Russell High broke their practices into four groups, according to Madison George, one of the school’s student representatives at the board meeting.