HELENA — Though Lewis and Clark County hasn't seen a large increase in COVID-19 cases, Montana saw it's largest one day increase in cases on June 25, with 37 cases. As cases rise across the state, Lewis and Clark Public Health is urging the public to avoid "super spreader" events.
"We know from experience and now with a better understanding of how this virus operates, that these are the type of opportunities -- when you bring large groups of people together for extended periods of time, close together for extended periods of time -- these are the opportunities this virus takes to spread, to spread quickly and to quickly get out of control," said Eric Merchant, Lewis and Clark Public Health's Disease Control and Prevention Division Administrator.
Under phase two guidelines set in place, gatherings are meant to be limited to 50 people or fewer and Lewis and Clark Public Health is urging the public to remember Montana is still in phase two of re-opening, and that if they are planning on attending a "super spreader" event to avoid going, and if they are required to attend to take all precautions.
"I know that's challenging. It does make the event less fun, but that's the way we need to stay safe," said Merchant. "So, first and foremost, please don't go. Secondly, if you do go or if you must be there, then you need to protect yourself and protect others by wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance."
Gaining traction online is the Freedom to Breathe Agency's 'Face Mask Exempt Card.' The card states that people who present the card are exempt from wearing a mask inside establishments that require people to wear masks. Though people present the card to event staff and establishments, like Real Foods Market and Deli where face masks are required for in-store service, it's possible they'll ask those guests or customers to pursue their other options.
"No mask, no in-store service, period. It doesn't matter if you have a card or not," said Marita Martiniak, Assistant General Manager of the local grocery store. "If you're not going to come in with the mask on, there is no in-store service. You can't make a purchase. We'll meet you outside, you can give us your order. You can order online, but it doesn't matter if you have a card or not. If you don't have a mask on, you don't get to come in."
"If somebody has a situation where they absolutely can't wear a mask, and they're planning to attend something where they need a mask, that would be something that they would want their doctor to identify," said Merchant.
The "Face Mask Exempt Card" does not have it, but there have been cards circulating with both the FTBA's and the Department of Justice's logo. The ADA, the DOJ's Civil Rights Division regarding the American's with Disabilities act, stated online, "these postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department," and to refer to the ADA's website for information released by the department.