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Some COVID restrictions are being loosened in Cascade County

Posted at 10:36 AM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 17:42:03-05

GREAT FALLS — COVID-19 restrictions are being loosened in Cascade County. During a meeting on Wednesday, Cascade County Board of Health members voted to approve four motions.

The motions take effect at 5 a.m. on Friday, January 22nd.

The first motion was to allow businesses to operate at 75 percent capacity instead of 50 percent capacity.

Businesses will also now be able to stay open until 12:30 a.m. instead of having to close at 10 p.m., but they will have to be closed from 12:30 a.m. to 4 a.m.

Third, the BOH agreed to limit indoor event capacity at 250 people and outdoor event capacity at 500 people with an approved event plan. This motion sparked the most debate. Public commenters suggested allowing events to operate at 75% capacity instead of having a flat 250 or 500-person cap. Board members were initially in favor of the idea and considered allowing event venues to apply for a variance to exceed the cap limit. Concerns were raised, however, that the health department would be inundated with requests, creating too much work for the already very busy department.

Board members then considered rescinding the first motion and adopting a new motion that caps capacity at 75 percent for both businesses and events. After some debate, several board members decided to oppose rescinding the motion and the vote to rescind, then, failed.

The members opposed said they felt the original motion should stay since it had already been approved and since it can be easily changed at ab future meeting.

The fourth and final motion approved was to set the effective date of the motions at 5 a.m. on Friday, January 22.

(JANUARY 15) The City-County Health Department in Great Falls announced on Friday that there have been nineteen COVID-19 deaths in Cascade County since December 31, 2020. That brings the death toll in the county to 126. The deaths were a man in his 60s; three women in their 70s; five men in their 70s; four women in their 80s; four men in their 80s; and two women in their 90s.

In a news release, the CCHD also addressed Governor Greg Gianforte's announcement earlier this week that he was rescinding former Governor Bullock’s Executive Orders 2-2020 and 3-2020.

Gianforte issued a new directive implementing his Executive Order 2-2021, which lifts some restrictions but leaves the mask order in place. However, the directive states that “in the interest of uniformity of laws and to prevent the spread of disease, all inconsistent local government health ordinances or orders are preempted by this Directive, but only to the extent they are less restrictive.” In other words, the CCHD said, Gianforte’s directive does not supersede local health orders.

Because Cascade County has continued to sustain high numbers of new COVID-19 cases, the Board of Health elected at a January 6, 2021 regular meeting to keep the November 20, 2020 Order of Health Officer in place until the case rate of new COVID-19 infections is at or below 25 per 100,000 for four consecutive weeks. As of January 13, 2021, the case rate in Cascade in Cascade County is 44 per 100,000.

The restrictions that remain in place in Cascade County include:

  • Restaurants, cafes, coffee houses, bars, casinos, gyms, movie theatres, etc. must close no later than 10:00 PM
  • All businesses must require social distancing & face coverings, and must operate at 50% capacity or less
  • All group gatherings, indoor or outdoor, are limited to 25 individuals where social distancing is not possible, or 50 individuals where social distancing is practiced (there are some exceptions to this rule, such as houses of worship and local school districts/school activities)

The Board of Health will meet on Wednesday, January 20, at 9:00 a.m. to review these restrictions now that Gianforte has released his new directive. Details, agenda, and the link to register for this Zoom meeting can be found by clicking here.

NOVEMBER 1: Cascade County COVID restrictions take effect