Flathead County Urges Businesses to Alter Services During Coronavirus Outbreak

As of Tuesday there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Flathead County

By Justin Franz
Shoppers check-out at Safeway in Whitefish on March 15, 2020. Flathead Valley residents stockpiled food, face-masks, cleaning supplies and paper products over the weekend as covid-19 spreads across the United States. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Although there have been no known local cases of COVID-19 in Northwest Montana, Flathead County officials are urging businesses “to begin immediate preparations for alternative ways of performing day-to-day activities.”

On Tuesday, the Flathead County Commissioners and Flathead City-County Board of Health sent out guidelines to businesses to help them implement social distancing in the community. The guidelines include:

-Closing any area where large groups can congregate or will be in close vicinity to each other

-Move to alternative ways of providing food services such as take-out, delivery and drive-thru

-Alter walk-in and face-to-face services to be provided by phone

-Have meetings done virtually

-Reconstruct offices to distance employees

-Encourage employees to not come in if they are sick

-Look into online services for banking, shopping and even workouts

While a number of counties across the state have forced bars and restaurants to close, Flathead has not yet taken that step.

“While there are still no confirmed cases in Flathead County, we recognize that across the nation and Montana bold steps will need to be implemented to protect the health of the public. There may be no warning for the implementation of control measures and so it is vital that every business begin planning and implementing alternate ways of doing business immediately,” said Tamalee St. James Robinson, chair of the Flathead City-County Board of Health.

Some local services have already started to change how they do business, including the Flathead Food Bank in Kalispell. The pantry will only be distributing pre-packaged bags of food to people curbside. They are also asking that people 60 in over come between 9 a.m. and noon and those 60 and under to come between 1 and 4 p.m.

Throughout the Flathead Valley, businesses were taking steps to modify services, with many restaurants eliminating seating and offering take-out orders only.

In a notice to business owners, the city of Whitefish is waiving resort tax delinquency fees through April 30.

“We will work with each business on reporting needs through this challenging time,” according to a statement from Whitefish City Manager Dana Smith.

“Our small businesses are the backbone of our community and we appreciate your hard work in making Whitefish an incredible place to live and visit,” she continued.

Late Monday, Gov. Steve Bullock announced that there were two more cases of coronavirus in Montana: a man in his 20s in Missoula County and a woman in her 20s in Yellowstone County. Both people have been isolated pursuant to CDC guidelines.

The two new cases announced Monday bring the total of confirmed coronavirus cases in Montana to eight.

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