Cascade County expanding vaccines; Board of Health to discuss masks, restrictions Feb. 17
Cascade County will open vaccinations to those 60-69 with qualifying health conditions beginning Feb. 18.
Anna Attaway, spokesperson for the Cascade County City-County Health Department, said during Tuesday’s City Commission meeting that the county had scheduled appointments with the majority of people on the waiting list and are discontinuing that waitlist this week.
That means the county is going back to using the online portal to schedule appointments for vaccination.
The next scheduling block opens 9 a.m. Feb. 18 for 3,300 appointment slots on the following dates and times:
- Feb. 22 – 2-6 p.m.
- Feb. 24 – 2-6 p.m.
- Feb. 26 – 2-6 p.m.
- Feb. 27 – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- March 1 – 2-6 p.m.
- March 3 – 2-6 p.m.
- March 5 – 2-6 p.m.
- March 6 – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Attaway said that with the staffing levels for CCHD and their partners at Benefis Health System, Great Falls Clinic and Alluvion Health, it’s more efficient for them to use the online portal.
The phone number and email for the waitlist will be discontinued and those seeking appointments will be funnelled to the online portal, Attaway said.
As of Feb. 16, in Cascade County, 12,749 doses of the vaccine had been administered and 3,514 people were fully immunized, according to the state dashboard.
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, according to Trisha Gardner, county health officer.
Attaway said health officials are hopeful that the case numbers of held and Wednesday will mark the fourth consecutive week of an average daily case rate of 25 per 100,000.
That’s the threshold set by the Cascade County City-County Board of Health in mid-January to lift the restrictions on operating capacity and hours for bars, restaurants and similar establishments, as well as event sizes.
Owen Robinson, a City Commissioner and chair of the health board, said he can’t predict what the board would do, but suspected that they’d lift the restrictions on businesses and event sizes as long as the case rate held and no significant changes came up.
But, the board could institute a local mask mandate and is expected to discuss the item during their meeting.
Gov. Greg Gianforte lifted the state mandate last week, but state law allows local jurisdictions to implement stricter rules to manage the COVID situation in their own communities.
Cascade County does not currently have a mask mandate as the local health order than went into effect Jan. 22 and remains in effect currently does not include a mask mandate.
Local school districts and businesses are also able to institute their own mask policies.
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.
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.
Alluvion Health is also continuing to require masks.
The Cascade County Board of Health has seven members and is comprised of the following:
- 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