By Bella Butler
BIG SKY – More than 300,000 Montanans have been fully immunized to COVID-19 as of May 3. For those Montanans, and the many who have been recommended to adhere to several COVID-19 precautions for more than a year, local and national sources are providing recommendations on which measures to continue, and which no longer apply.
“Those that are fully vaccinated and it’s been two weeks from their second dose, they can start reintroducing some actions that were previously encouraged against,” said Amanda Farmer, a physician assistant at the Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center. Farmer said mask use is an example of one of those differences.
Fully vaccinated people—those that have had the recommended doses and waited two weeks—can be among other fully vaccinated people indoors without a mask, Fisher said in a statement corroborated by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. With the exception of larger crowds, she added that fully vaccinated people can also be outside with other people without a mask.
There are still some circumstances, though, where mask-wearing is still recommended, and sometimes required, for fully vaccinated individuals. Farmer said that no vaccine is 100 percent effective, and the COVID-19 vaccines—which range from about 66-95 percent effective—are no exception. Breakthrough cases, fully vaccinated people who still get sick, are rare but possible and have already occurred in Gallatin County, according to Gallatin County Health Officer Matt Kelley.
“We’re still asking people, even after they got those two doses, to consider the impact it may have on others around you if you’re one of the other small percentage who does develop the disease after you get the vaccine,” Kelley said. Gallatin County’s mask mandate was extended by the county’s board of health at an April 5 meeting and expires May 27.
Kelley said that as more people get vaccines and both parties in a given interaction are vaccinated, there’s a “double duty protection” created against risk of breakthrough cases. “That’s where you get in that situation where, in public health that term you call herd immunity, where the overall community has so much immunity built up that it really just becomes difficult for the virus to navigate through and jump from one person to the next,” he said.
The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce recently reported that the most recent week of Big Sky surveillance tests, which were down in total count by more than half of the count two weeks prior, yielded the highest positive rate yet recorded in the program at 4.6 percent.
“The fastest way for us to reach herd immunity is going to be for as many as possible to get vaccinated, and if we want to get back to living our normal lives post-pandemic we all need to do our part and get shots in arms,” said Big Sky Resort Area District Executive Director Daniel Bierschwale. Bierschwale wrote in an email that vaccines are available in “abundant supply” in the Big Sky community.
To sign up for a vaccination appointment, visit bozemanhealth.org/about-us/covid-19-information/covid-19-vaccine-information/. For questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, call Bozeman Health’s vaccine hotline at (406)-414-2620 or visit healthygallatin.org.