Yellowstone County provides details on several coronavirus cases

Posted at 9:35 AM, Mar 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-22 12:23:31-04

BILLINGS — A Yellowstone County jail employee and two healthcare workers were the three Thursday positive tests for COVID-19 (coronavirus), officials announced Friday.

The detention officer posted notice of the positive test and called in sick for his shift that was to start Thursday night, Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said in a news release.

He last worked at the detention center on Sunday, March 15, Linder said. Another officer was sent home by supervisors after having a cough Thursday morning. He has taken a COVID-19 test but has not received the results, Linder said.

The two healthcare workers contracted the disease while away from their workplace, Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton said at a Friday news conference.

He added that these two workers may have been exposed at a Montana Board of Regents meeting on March 5 in Dillon, where others have reported contracting the disease, including Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian.

As of Friday (March 20) there are 21 confirmed COVID-19 patients in the state of Montana. Yellowstone County has 5 reported cases, Missoula has 4, Gallatin has 3, Flathead County has 2, Lewis & Clark has 2; and the following counties have one each: Butte-Silver Bow, Broadwater, Roosevelt, Ravalli and Madison. As of Friday evening, the public health lab in Helena has completed 1,166 tests for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Governor Steve Bullock on Friday ordered the statewide closure of dining rooms in restaurants, and also bars, breweries and other businesses that could draw large gatherings. He said he had been considering the action for several days, but now was the right time to do it. “As we see positive cases that include both younger and older Montanans, and in cases urban and now rural, I know that that closure and these actions are imperative to protect our friends and neighbors,” he said.

The order went into effect at 8 p.m. on Friday, and expires at 11:59 p.m. on March 27 – the same time that statewide school closures are set to expire. However, Bullock said that time was chosen simply to align the two measures, and that it is possible both orders would be extended.

Bullock also announced that Montana’s income tax filing deadline will be extended from April 15 to July 15. The change brings the state in line with the federal deadline, which was already delayed.

During Friday’s update, Bullock praised actions by Montana businesses and individuals that have worked to help their neighbors during this time. He asked all Montanans to continue doing all they can. “There are two ways that together, we’re going to make it through all of this – and Montanans are already engaging in both of those ways,” he said. “First, preventative measures through social distancing, and second, looking out for one another with our strong community ties.”

Bullock's order states that the following places are closed to ingress, egress, use, and occupancy by members of the public:

  • Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other similar establishments offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption.
  • Alcoholic beverage service businesses, including bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other establishments offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
  • Cigar bars.
  • Health clubs, health spas, gyms, aquatic centers, pools and hot springs, indoor facilities at ski areas, climbing gyms, fitness studios, and indoor recreational facilities.
  • Movie and performance theaters, nightclubs, concert halls, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and music halls.
  • Casinos.

The places subject to the order are permitted and encouraged to offer food and beverage using delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service, and to use precautions in doing so to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19, including social distancing. Customers may order and pay by telephone or online from a retailer or manufacturer licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in the State of Montana. A retailer or manufacturer licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in the state of Montana may deliver for sale the alcoholic beverages for which it is licensed. Delivery must be conducted by the licensee’s employees over the age of 21 and age of the purchaser and recipient must be verified at the time of delivery. The purchased alcohol must be hand-delivered to the purchaser. In offering food or beverage, a place subject to this section may permit up to five members of the public at one time inside for the purpose of picking up their food or beverage orders, so long as those individuals are at least six feet apart from one another while on premises.

The restrictions imposed by this order do not apply to any of the following:

  • Establishments that offer food and beverage not for on-premises consumption, including grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and food pantries, other than those portions of the establishments restricted above.
  • Room service in hotels.
  • Health care facilities, residential care facilities, university dining facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities.
  • Crisis shelters or similar institutions.
  • Airport concessionaires.
  • Military dining facilities or military food operations.
  • Any facilities necessary for the response to the emergency, including schools providing necessary meal services to children.
  • All of the above-named facilities and establishments should adopt appropriate social distancing practices to avoid the spread of disease, to the extent practicable.

The state-wide order comes after several counties and town imposed similar restrictions earlier this week.