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Health board votes on extending emergency rule, no date yet for Phase 2

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By Mira Brody EBS Staff

BOZEMAN – At a special board meeting on May 1, the Gallatin County Board of Health voted to extend the emergency local health rule relating to COVID-19 by 90 days to meet the needs of Gov. Steve Bullock’s phased reopening of the economy. The rule addresses the enforcement of health and sanitation requirements and the investigation of those believed to be non-compliant so that retail and restaurants can reopen and operate safely.

Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley warned that as businesses become operational the risk of a spike in cases increases. The 90-day extension is the maximum a board decision can be extended at a time. The timeframe is flexible, not static, meaning they can vote to make changes to the emergency rule before the extension is over.

“If we push everybody into the public at once, that will raise the risk of us having to close businesses back down again,” Kelley said.

Kelley likened the emergency rule to enforcing smoking on an airplane—although it’s against the law to do so, we rarely have to enforce it because it’s the societal norm not to. The health board is not expecting the use law enforcement to be necessary to achieve compliance. 

Events of 50 or fewer people would fall under Phase 2 of reopening, and larger events of over 50 people, such as concerts and rodeos, will fall under Phase 3. There is not yet a date to move into Phase 2. Kelley noted that the impacts of Phase 1 must be fully understood before moving forward and that any changes will be guided by epidemiology and science.

Other metrics being monitored are the number of active COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the county’s testing capacity and the viral load in sewage treatment. Sewage is currently being tested for viral loads in Bozeman and will soon be tested in Big Sky and potentially West Yellowstone. 

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