Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

Health Department recommends shift from regulations, metrics in place to repeal mask rule

 

April 15, 2021

Henry Netherland, Pathfinder

Seeley Lake residents line up for their second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a drive-thru clinic hosted by Partnership Health Center at Seeley-Swan High School Saturday, April 10. Currently there are no scheduled vaccination clinics in Seeley Lake. However, PHC Director Eric Halverson said they can only plan out a week in advance. For vaccination information and to book an appointment, visit covid19.missoula.co/vaccine-information/ or call 406-258-4636.

Over the past month, Missoula County's new COVID-19 case incidence rate has stayed relatively low and COVID-19 vaccine appointments opened to all Missoula County residents ages 16 and older. In light of those developments, the Missoula City-County Health Department believes now is the time to step down more of Missoula's COVID-19 requirements. The Health Department proposes the Board of Health changes most COVID-19 mitigation requirements to recommendations for businesses, bars, restaurants, barbers, gyms and other entities at its meeting on Thursday, April 15 starting at 12:15 p.m.

However, the face covering requirements would stay intact, with two changes:

1. The trigger for requiring face coverings at outdoor events and gatherings would increase from 25 to 50 people.

2. The Health Officer would be required to shift the face covering requirements to recommendations on or after May 11, 2021, once 60% of Missoula residents have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci has said, the change from restrictions to recommendations should be viewed more as a dimmer than a light switch. We want to highlight to Missoula businesses that the local, state and federal recommendations still emphasize six-foot physical distancing, staying home when ill and frequent cleaning and sanitizing of common touch areas. Face coverings remain an essential mitigation tool in stopping the spread of the disease. These proposed changes would give businesses and other entities more flexibility in how they create safe spaces for their employees, customers and visitors.

We are in a transition phase and as vaccines increase, we will be able to return to more activities and routines. At this point, the threat of the disease is not over. Only those 16 and older can get vaccinations right now, but those younger than 16 can still get and spread the disease. Current trends also show continued transmission among Missoula County residents ages 20-39. This age group also has the lowest vaccination rate among Missoula County residents.

America's top health officials recommend all those who are eligible get a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccine appointments remain available in Missoula County and can be viewed on http://www.covid19.missoula.co. Appointments are abundant and often taken one minute to book. Furthermore, the Health Department's vaccine clinic in the Southgate Mall is now accepting walk-up appointments during specific hours nearly every day of the week.

Public comment on these proposed rule changes will be accepted through the resident feedback portal found on the homepage of http://www.missoulainfo.com. Public comment will also be accepted during the meeting, however comments made during the meeting will be subject to a time limit.

To join the Board of Health's April 15 meeting call in 406-272-4824, Conference ID: 542 292 855# or visit https://www.missoulacounty.us/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/52663/8419 for log in information.

 

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