County COVID-19 case numbers hold below 25 per 100k threshold for third week; GFPS hosting state basketball, swimming with limited spectators; Gianforte says he’ll lift mask mandate Friday

Updated Feb. 11 at 10:30 a.m.

Cascade County’s case rate for the last week, ending Feb. 10, was 21 per 100,000, marking three consecutive weeks that the rate has been below 25 per 100,000, nearing the threshold to lift local health restrictions. 

Trisha Gardner, county health officer, told The Electric that she calculated the new rate this morning.

County COVID case numbers hold below 25 per 100k threshold for second week; GFPS looking at spectator limits for sporting events

The county health board’s restrictions, which were adjusted in January, on operating times and capacity for bars and restaurants, and event sizes remain in place until the county reaches a new average weekly case rate of 25 per 100,000 for four consecutive weeks.

The week ending Feb. 3 was 21 per 100,000 and the rate for the week ending Jan. 27 was 24.5 percent, according to the Cascade County City-County Health Department.

State launches vaccine dashboard

In January, Gov. Greg Gianforte said the mask mandate would remain in place until more people are vaccinated and he has legislation on his desk protecting businesses from COVID-19 related lawsuits.

County health board votes to change COVID-19 regulations effective Jan. 22

Gianforte signed Senate Bill 65 this afternoon that will protect businesses, health care providers, nonprofit organizations, and places of worship from lawsuits if they make a good faith effort to protect individuals from the spread of coronavirus and follow clear public health guidelines.

He said that enough vulnerable residents have been vaccinated and that he issue a directive on Friday lifting the mask mandate.

Local jurisdictions can implement mask mandates. The current Cascade County health order that went into effect Jan. 22 doesn’t require masks but does recommend that they be worn. Local school boards are also able to implement local COVID-19 protocols, Gianforte said.

The current order replaced an early January order that had incorporated former Gov. Steve Bullock’s COVID-19 restrictions, including the mask mandate.

Statewide, 149,263 doses have been administered and 41,539 people have been fully vaccinated.

Gianforte said he will continue to wear a mask and encourages all Montanans to do so to protect themselves and others.

Gardner told The Electric that she will address Gianforte’s new directive with the county health board. Under state law, she has the authority to issue a health order requiring masks in Cascade County, as does the health board.

There are approximately 10,000 people in Cascade County who are 70 and over, and another estimated 16,000 people aged 16-69 with underlying conditions who will be eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1b, the current phase of the state plan.

As of Feb. 8, 10, 976 doses had been administered in Cascade County and 2,855 had been fully vaccinated, according to the state dashboard.

“Interest in the waiting list has been very high, so in order to get through as many names as possible on the waiting list, online scheduling is temporarily suspended. Individuals near the top of the list will receive a call or email to schedule their appointments,” according to a CCHD release.

CCHD booking those on waiting list for next batch of vaccines; Malmstrom expanding availability; VA receives more doses for veterans

Online scheduling will resume for future clinics and those dates will be announced by CCHD.

If you are 70 or older and have not already put yourself on the waiting list, email or call 406-791-9250 and leave the following information:

  • Full name and spelling
  • Home address
  • Phone number (if calling) and/or email address
  • Date of birth

Residents are asked to use one of the routes to get on the waiting list, not both, as that creates duplicate entries and slows the process.

CCHD opening phone line for COVID-19 vaccination list

At this time, the vaccination list phone line and email will remain open at all hours and people do not have to wait for scheduled times to join the waiting list.

“Please be aware that you will not receive a call back indicating that we received your message. We will call you once your name is at the top of the list and we are ready to schedule your appointment. Emails will receive an auto-reply. Note that you will only receive one. If you email us more than once, you will not receive more than one auto-reply,” according to CCHD.

Malmstrom airmen begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine

As of now, but COVID-19 dependent, Great Falls Public Schools is hosting the state basketball and swimming events in March.

The state AA basketball tournament will be March 10-13 at Montana ExpoPark with spectators limited to 500 per team, including players, officials, etc., Superintendent Tom Moore told the school board during their Feb. 8 meeting.

The state AA swimming meet is March 5 at the Great Falls High School pool and will be an abbreviated meet, Moore said.

The district will use the Field House for spectators and show the meet on a screen, Moore said.

The plans for both of those events has been approved by CCHD and the Montana High School Association, Moore said.