New Year’s Eve held the threat of possibly being a ‘super spreader’ event for COVID 19 in Missoula, but according to the Missoula City County Health Department, there was near universal compliance with directives for the holiday.

The health department proactively called 86 bars and casinos before the holiday.

The purpose of the calls was to ask operators how they planned to manage crowding, distancing, and 10 p.m. closing, as well as to provide guidance documents, signage, and troubleshoot any issues that operators could foresee.

Environmental Health Branch Director for COVID response Jeanna Miller said a large number of spot compliance checks were done on New Year’s Eve, and the results were spectacular.

“I believe that we did 84 spot checks and, and spot checks are pretty simple,” said Miller. “We just we just kind of do a quick drive by or walk-through and make sure that what we're seeing couldn't contribute to some community spread or some outbreaks of this pandemic of this virus, and so among those 84 spot checks, there was really only one establishment that was operating past 10:00 p.m. and we contacted them and talked through some strategies and some corrections and I think they were well received.”

Miller praised the overall attitude of businesses in Missoula County during the pandemic.

“We have been so fortunate to be going through this incredibly challenging experience with such an amazing community in general, but the business community especially,” she said. “You know, this is this has been hard on everyone and I stay pretty closely connected with my counterparts throughout the state of Montana, and I just think there are a lot of things we have going for us in Missoula, including business owners that are really interested in protecting their staff and their customers.”

Miller said the entire business community seems to be working together to stay open and keep their people employed.

“In addition, I would say the most important reason that I think we're doing a great job is we just seem to take care of each other here in Missoula, and I don't think a lot of our businesses are lost in the fact that what they're doing isn't just rules on a page,” she said. “It's to keep people safe, and that's really what I think is at the heart of most of our conversations with these establishment owners.”

Miller said there have been rare occasions when establishments have been forced to shut down, but she said the health department works with them to help reopen as quickly as possible.

“Those closures are typically pretty short because we don't put a time frame on them,” she said. “It's not a penalty that says you have to close for ‘x’ many days. You have to close until you can give us a plan and we can agree that the changes that you're going to make are going to be in line with what other businesses are doing, so it's usually for a day or less.”


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