On Thursday, KGVO reached out to Missoula City County Health Officer Ellen Leahy on what will happen starting May 11, should the conditions be right, to change COVID-19 requirements to recommendations.

She said the change will not be automatic, like flipping a switch from pandemic to normal.

“We've had phone calls from either event managers or businesses continuing to seek advice on how to sort of transition out rather than just flipping the light switch,” said Leahy. For instance, ‘we've gone from all mandates to nothing’. We are not going from all mandates to nothing."

Leahy explained the health department’s guidance as that date approaches.

“We are issuing recommendations for guidance and hoping that Missoula will continue to do what it's been doing and really norm those behaviors until we can get the vaccine rate even higher because we're not even at the intermediate goal of 60% which would allow us to release them the mask mandate,” she said. “That's not herd immunity. That's just an intermediate goal.”

Leahy said when conditions warrant, businesses with mandatory masking signage will be able to transition from a mask mandate to a recommendation.

“Right now they are still required to have the sign because the mandate includes language about the sign,” she said. “Once the mandate goes, they will not be required to have the sign. They may choose to have it because they want masked people in their business.”

Leahy said there will come a time when the mandatory behaviors will be lifted, however the final decision will not be made locally.

“At some point that emergency proclamation will be lifted,” she said. “Do I think that COVID will then disappear and the health department will not see outbreaks or a person may never get it or we won't be looking at more shots and more boosters? I don't. I think that the disease is here to stay and will become endemic instead of a pandemic or an epidemic, but that's not something that we that we make the call on here at the local level; that’s actually a global event.”

Find out more on the Missoula City County Health Department website.

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