County health board planning special meeting regarding masks

Cascade County is local health order restricting operating hours and capacity for certain types of businesses and limits gathering sizes.

That health order went into effect Jan. 22 and does not include a mask mandate and as Gov. Greg Gianforte has said he will lift the statewide mask mandate on Feb. 12, it’s caused some confusion for local residents. 

[READ: Health order effective Jan. 22]

Here’s a statement from Trisha Gardner, county health officer, on Thursday afternoon.

“As it stands right now, there is no local mask mandate. Our local order on Jan. 20, 2021, states that we will follow the Governor’s Directive regarding masks.

We do not yet know the exact provisions in the Governor’s next directive, nor when it will become effective. However, the Board of Health is planning to convene a special meeting early next week, so there is the possibility of a local order going into place. It is absolutely my recommendation that everyone continue wearing masks, no matter what directives/orders are in place. Additionally, businesses, schools, and other agencies do have the ability to implement their own policies regarding face coverings should they wish to do so.”

The local health order that is currently in force is effective until the county reaches a weekly average case rate of 25 per 100,000 for four consecutive weeks. The county has reached that mark for three consecutive weeks.

A health order adopted Jan. 6, which has been superseded by the Jan. 22 order, did incorporate former Gov. Steve Bullock’s restrictions, including the mask mandate.

Regardless of the mask mandate, the local health order restricting event sizes and the operating capacity and hours for bars, restaurants, and the like remains in effect until the fourth consecutive week of 25 per 100,000 cases, unless the health board makes changes next week.

School districts are also able to make their own policies regarding masks and Great Falls Public Schools currently requires masks on school property. Superintendent Tom Moore sits on the county health board.

In an email, Moore said, “Great Falls schools has had a mask requirement in place as part of our school re-opening plan that was approved by our school board in August of 2020. At this point the mask protocol for the district will remain in place until the CCHD has met and until our board has had a chance to consider any recommendations that staff would bring before them, if any,  or changes in our plan at the next regularly scheduled board meeting.”

The Great Falls Public Library also has its own adopted mask policy.

Individual businesses are also able to institute their own mask policies.

Benefis Health System said Feb. 11 that their policy remains the same and that masks are still required at all locations and our visitor restriction of two healthy visitors in a patient room at a time is still in effect. To learn more about Benefis’ COVID-19 policies, visit https://www.benefis.org/…/media…/covid-19-(coronavirus).

Great Falls Clinic also continues to require masks in all of their facilities and one visitor is permitted per patient at this time.

The Cascade County Board of Health has seven members and is comprised of the following: 

The Board consists of seven members:  

  • The mayor of the City of Great Falls or a representative
  • One Cascade County commissioner to be appointed by the County Commissioner
  • One interested citizen appointed by the Cascade County Commission
  • One interested citizen appointed by the City of Great Falls Commission
  • One licensed doctor of dentistry residing in Cascade County
  • One licensed doctor of medicine residing in Cascade County
  • The Superintendent of Great Falls Public Schools or a representative

Here’s background on the COVID-19 situation in Cascade County:

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

County seeking volunteers for COVID-19 clinics

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

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

COVID-19 restrictions remain in place in Cascade County; health board meets again Jan. 20 to review restrictions; 19 more COVID-19 deaths in county

Cascade County will maintain Bullock’s COVID-19 restrictions