GREAT FALLS — Cascade City-County Health Department (CCHD) officials will meet next week to consider reimposing public health restrictions due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
The Board of Public Health will look at reimplementing capacity restrictions on bars and restaurants, as well as limits on crowd sizes and public gatherings. They could also consider imposing fines on individuals for not following social distancing orders or wearing masks.
The board will not move Cascade County back into a Phase 1 closure, according to Trisha Gardner, public health officer. Schools won't be closed either.
"We're not looking at a widespread community shutdown at this point," Gardner said. "We don't want to get there."
Cascade County is the latest in a string of Montana's more populated counties to consider reimposing restrictions; both Yellowstone County and Flathead County have reimposed similar restrictions on restaurant capacity and public gatherings in recent weeks. Montana is currently in Phase 2 of Governor Steve Bullock's reopening plan, which allows for gatherings to expand to 50 people and businesses to operate at 75% capacity.
The news comes after Montana Governor Steve Bullock decided against moving the state back into Phase 1 during a press conference on October 7. Instead, he reemphasized an earlier request for counties with rising coronavirus cases to implement restrictions at the local level. As of Thursday afternoon, the state reported 83 new coronavirus cases in Cascade County, as well as 1,261 total cases and 578 active cases. On Tuesday, CCHD reported four new coronavirus-related deaths; there were two deaths the week prior.
CCHD is asking anyone with constructive feedback regarding restrictions, to email email@example.com. Public health officials will read through the emails and present recurring themes to the board next week. The board is required to give the public 48 hours notice before a meeting. There isn't a set date for the meeting yet, but it will be held early next week.