The Missoula COVID 19 Joint Information Center held a press conference on Friday afternoon to provide more information on the progress of combating the pandemic in Missoula County.

Missoula City County Health Department COVID 19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr provided impressive statistics on the progress against the pandemic.

“When the restrictions were put in place last fall, we were seeing a huge spike in cases and we've now seen a steady decline in our cases,” said Farr. “Our incidence rate is now below the goal of 25 cases per 100,000 people and it has remained below that goal for two weeks. This tells us that our local strategies are working and our Board of Health will be meeting next week to revise the current restrictions that are in place here in Missoula County.”

Farr provided some examples of the policies that may be revised.

“Some of those proposed restrictions do include increasing the group sizes for events from 50 indoors and 100 outdoors, removing capacity limits except as necessary to meet the social distancing requirements and removing certain restrictions on fitness facilities, pools, personal care businesses and places of worship and assembly,” she said.

Taverns and bars have had numerous restrictions placed upon them during the pandemic, and Farr also had encouraging news for them.

“Bars will be able to allow customers to order at the bar as long as there's a designated spot for that, and pool and darts would be allowed as long as social distancing can continue to be maintained,” she said. “Self service buffets will be allowed as long as social distancing can be maintained and food can be served in a way that reduces the contamination from common utensils, and lastly, revising the language throughout the rule based on input from community entities for clarity.”

Farr did reiterate the fact the despite Governor Gianforte’s order to allow the statewide masking mandate to expire, that Missoula and other communities will retain their authority to keep the mandate in place.

“One of the restrictions that will remain in place is the masking mandate from Missoula county residents ages five and over when in public spaces,” she said. “The majority of other large health jurisdictions in Montana are also retaining the mask mandate and scientific evidence shows that when used with other COVID mitigation strategies, such as social distancing masks can reduce the transmission of COVID 19.”

Rob Watson 2-12

MCPS Superintendent Dr. Rob Watson said that the school district will continue a robust mask wearing policy.

“Under this policy we will continue to require the use of face coverings in school buildings on school buses, and really any indoor outdoor school activity where social distancing is not possible,” he said. “These requirements will be for students and staff and also any visitors to our school buildings or our activities, and also this policy will stay in effect regardless of what phase we're in. The school board has declared a state of emergency under COVID, and as long as that state of emergency is in place, then this policy will stay in place.”

The Missoula County Board of Health will consider these changes at its regular meeting next Thursday. Public comments can be submitted through the Resident Feedback Portal on now through Tuesday, February 16th at 5 p.m.

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