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Great Falls declares a State of Emergency in response to COVID-19

Posted at 11:30 AM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 14:51:03-04

GREAT FALLS — The City of Great Falls has declared a State of Emergency in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus) effective March 19, 2020.

A news release says that State of Emergency is a proactive move to get ahead of contingencies once the virus hits Great Falls. While there are only 12 confirmed cases (see below)in Montana (none in Cascade County) at the moment, the national trend is moving toward Montana. Two other local jurisdictions have declared similar emergencies: the Cascade City-County Health Department and Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Trisha Gardner, the health officer of the City-County Health Department, said that all restaurants in Cascade County will be limited to drive-through, take-out, delivery, and curb-side service only, effective at 6 a.m. on Friday, March 20. The order extends until Friday, March 27, and could be extended. Other businesses ordered to close for the duration of the emergency order include casinos, gyms/fitness centers, bowling alleys, coffee bars, movie theatres, and "other commercial businesses in which people assemble for recreation."

City Manager Greg Doyon said parking meter enforcement in downtown Great Falls will be suspended for the duration of the emergency order.

Mayor Bob Kelly said that the decision to declare a state of emergency was unanimously approved by all five city commissioners, adding that the decision was not made lightly.

Kelly also said that people who want to help the community can do so in several ways. He said the Great Falls Public School District is working to help students across the community; click here to visit the GFPS website to find out how you can help.

He said that the United Way of Cascade County is coordinating volunteers and accepting donations to help people who are being directly affected by the crisis. The United Way website states:

United Way of Cascade County has created a COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery fund to support local organizations who are seeing an increased demand on their services. One-hundred percent of the funds donated will be allocated to support service organizations as they address ongoing and new needs within our community. Our initial distributions will focus on adding capacity to the 211 network so they may continue to provide vital information about COVID-19 and community resources, take the burden off healthcare providers and public health officials, and, importantly, capture community-level data that can help us determine where needs are most urgent. Once community-level needs have been determined, distributions will focus on supporting the needs of working families, starting with partners which provide individual assistance with things like rent, utilities, food and more. To donate click here or send checks to United Way, PO Box 1343, Great Falls, MT, 59403. Local help with childcare, food, energy assistance, unemployment assistance, and more is available. People can call the community help resource line 2-1-1 or search to find resources that fit their needs.

Once affirmed by the City Commission, the declaration gives the City Manager additional authority to protect the public from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The declaration also authorizes the City Manager to enact temporary measure to provide relief where appropriate of city process, operations, ordinances. Finally,the order grants the City Manager authority to make sure that the City is being resourced properly so it may continue to provide essential services. The order will not necessarily free up any additional funding for the City because the President and the Governor have already declared emergencies.

The news release says that many extraordinary steps have been taken already by local businesses, nonprofits, agencies and authorities – school closures, event postponement, establishments limiting public access, restaurants providing delivery only, and the City reducing or eliminating certain non-essential services. While we are all taking extraordinary steps to slow the virus down, more action may be necessary to protect Great Falls citizens.

For more information about the City of Great Falls’ COVID-19 proactive measures, contact the Communications Division at 406-455-8496.

There are now 11 confirmed COVID-19 patients in the state of Montana. Here is the publicly-released information about them:

  • Missoula County (4): man in his 50s, woman in her 30s; man in his 20s; man in his 50s
  • Gallatin County (3): man in his 40s; man in his 20s; man in his 60s
  • Yellowstone County (2): woman in her 50s; woman in her 20s
  • Butte-Silver Bow County: man in his 50s
  • Broadwater County: man in his 50s
  • There is also a Montana woman diagnosed with COVID-19 who is a part-time Lake County resident; she is currently in Maryland with no documented exposures or close contacts in Montana, and was not tested in Montana. She was tested and diagnosed in Maryland, where she currently is residing.