Cascade County will maintain Bullock’s COVID-19 restrictions
The Cascade County City-County Board of Health voted today to adopt the Nov. 20 local health order, which incorporates the board’s COVID-19 restrictions that went into effect Nov. 1 and former Gov. Steve Bullock’s directives, to include the mask mandate and requiring bars, restaurants and others to close at 10 p.m.
That means that all of those restrictions will remain in place locally regardless of any changes new Gov. Greg Gianforte makes in the coming weeks, according to Carey Ann Haight, chief of the civil division in the Cascade County Attorney’s Office.
Haight said that the health officer has the legal authority under state law to issue health orders that are more restrictive that state rules, but that there are additional enforcement tools if the health board adopts the same local rules.
No members of the public commented during the meeting.
The local rules will remain in effect until the county’s daily average case rate is 25 per 100,000 for four consecutive weeks. That rate is calculated on Wednesdays and for the last week rose to 38 per 100,000, according to the Cascade County City-County Health Department.
The previous week was the first week the county had reached 25 per 100,000, a significant decline after about two months of rates ranging from 63 to 227 per 100,000.
The last time the county’s rate was 25 or lower was the end of September, according to CCHD.
The local health order could also expire if the state emergency declaration expired.
On Jan. 6, the county added 62 new cases, bringing the total to 6,813. Of those, 619 are currently active, according to the state map.
Owen Robinson, a City Commissioner and health board member, was the only one to vote against adopting the health order because he’s concerned of the movement in the Legislature to limit the powers of public health officials. Multiple bills are being drafted relating to the powers of local public health officials, according to multiple sources.
Tom Moore, Great Falls Public Schools superintendent and health board member, said that he’s heard the same comments about the move against public health officers at the Legislature, but that the law currently grants separate powers and responsibilities to local boards of health and that if lawmakers wanted to take on both entities, “that’s going to be a dog fight.”
Moore said that from what he understands from Gianforte’s platform, the new governor supports local authority and control to allow communities to make their own decisions based on local conditions.
Dr. Ray Geyer, the infectious disease specialist at the Great Falls Clinic and a health board member, said that the numbers are coming down, “but this would not, in my opinion, be the time to relax anything that we’re doing. The virus doesn’t know that the year changed, the virus doesn’t know that the governor changed.”
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