(UPDATE) We contacted the CCHD for clarification about what many people have said they are upset about, or don't fully understand - why the "per capita spread" benchmark was lowered from 25 per 100,000 to 10 per 100,000. Here is the response from the CCHD:
“What it boils down to, if you read the Jan 21 Health Order on page 3, section 2A, is that the last health order does not specifically mention the mask mandate because we had no local mask order—we were just mirroring the Governor’s order at that time. Because we had no local mask order, there was no benchmark set for lifting it.
Therefore, when the health order stated that the benchmark for lifting ‘restrictions’ was 25 or fewer new cases per 100,000 people, for four consecutive weeks, the restrictions in question had nothing to do with masks. Those restrictions had only to do with (1) business hours and capacity, and (2) limitations on event gathering size.
These restrictions have now been changed. Because we met, yesterday, the 4 weeks at a case rate of 25/100K or less, there are now (1) NO restrictions on business hours and capacity, and (2) event gathering size has gone up to 75% of venue capacity.
That means that, unless the business is an event venue, there are no restrictions in place except for the universal mask order.”
We will keep you updated.
(THURSDAY, 11:29 a.m.) On Wednesday evening, the Cascade County Board of Health approved by a vote of 5-2 the implementation of two measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19: the first is a requirement that masks be worn except in certain circumstances, and the second is an event capacity limit. During the meeting, public comment before the vote was overwhelmingly against requiring masks.
Prior to Wednesday's meeting, the CCHD had said that COVID restrictions might be lifted when the spread of the virus in Cascade County dropped below 25 per 100,000 people for four weeks.
During Wednesday's meeting, however, the CCHD said the new measures will remain in place until the per capita spread of the virus is at or below 10 per 100,000 for two consecutive weeks.
The 5-2 vote by the Board of Health was: County Commissioner Joe Briggs and City Commissioner Owen Robinson voted no. The yes votes were from Ray Geyer, a physician; Matt Martin, a dentist; GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore; Terry Barber, a pharmacist; and Amanda Ball of the Child & Family Services agency.
Wednesday’s meeting was in response to Governor Greg Gianforte ending the state’s mask mandate last Friday (February 12).
On Thursday morning, the City-County Health Department released the following details about the meeting and new measures:
Yesterday (2/17) evening, the Cascade County Board of Health convened a special meeting regarding local control measures for COVID-19, making changes to the measures implemented in the most recent 1/21/21 Order of Health Officer. The 1/21/21 Order of Health Officer ordered limitations on (1) occupancy and hours for bars, restaurants, and other related establishments, as well as on (2) group gatherings, assemblies, and the like, until the case rate of new COVID-19 infections in Cascade County was at or below 25/100,000 for four consecutive weeks.
As of yesterday, 2/17/21, Cascade County achieved that goal of four consecutive weeks with a case rate of 25/100,000 or less, and thus all restrictions on business hours and capacity have been lifted, and venue capacity for special events/gatherings has been increased.
However, two control measures were then adopted at the special Board of Health meeting last night. These measures are effective immediately and will remain in place until the per capita spread of the virus is at or below 10 per 100,000 for two consecutive weeks.
The Board of Health voted that they and Health Officer Trisha Gardner would:
Issue a local order for Cascade County requiring universal masking, except under the following conditions:
- Children under the age of five (all children between the ages of two and four, however, are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering, but children under the age of two should not wear a face covering);
- Persons consuming food or drinks in an establishment that offers food or drinks for sale;
- Persons engaged in an activity that makes wearing a face covering impractical or unsafe, such as strenuous physical exercise or swimming;
- Persons seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired; persons giving a speech or engaging in an artistic, cultural, musical, or theatrical performance for an audience, provided the audience is separated by at least six feet of distance;
- Persons temporarily removing their face covering for identification purposes;
- Persons required to remove face coverings for the purpose of receiving medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment;
- Persons who have a medical condition precluding the safe wearing of a face covering; or
- Persons who can maintain social distancing when outside their home or place of employment.
Allow gatherings & events of up to 75% of an event venue’s capacity when social distancing can be maintained. Events over 75% of venue capacity will be considered on a case-by-case basis with the submission of an event plan to CCHD.
Ahead of last week's directive by Governor Gianforte, several county and municipal agencies had already announced they intend to keep some restrictions: