HELENA — Local governments and agencies are placing restrictions on gatherings and are urging residents to wear masks as the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Montana continues to increase.
The Whitefish City Council adopted a resolution on Monday encouraging mask use. Lewis and Clark Public Health set stringent guidelines for events with between 50 and 249 attendees and is now prohibiting events with more than 250 attendees to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
A private outdoor prom for juniors and seniors at Helena’s two high schools that had been planned for Wednesday evening was canceled, the Independent Record reported.
The Missoula City-County Board of Health is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposed mask mandate for all public indoor spaces to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Montana reported 44 more cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total number of known cases to 1,371. Nineteen of the cases reported Wednesday are in Gallatin County.
There are nearly 600 residents who are currently infected with the respiratory virus, including 190 in Gallatin County. Twenty-two people are hospitalized, and 23 people have died.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.
In Lewis and Clark County, the health department’s order regulating gatherings went into effect Wednesday and will be enforced via complaints made to law enforcement. Officers will not break up any gatherings. But they will document any violations, and the county attorney office will determine if they should be prosecuted, the order states.
“It’s unfortunate that public health has to be the heavy hand,” health officer Drenda Niemann said. “It’s unfortunate that the community isn’t stepping in.”
Denise Wolf, a representative of the nonprofit group organizing the Helena prom, said she felt the order was retaliatory, although Niemann said they had been working up guidelines for large events for over a month.
Wolf said she had to notify 400 teens that their prom had been canceled — again.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.
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