New Local COVID-19 Cases Linked to Service Industry

Flathead City-County Health Department investigations show many of newest cases associated with employees in businesses such as bars, restaurants

By Maggie Dresser
The Flathead City-County Health Department. Beacon File Photo

Recent Flathead City-County Health Department case investigations have concluded that many of the newest local COVID-19 cases were tied to service industry employees, according to a press release.

With 52 active cases and 158 total cases of COVID-19 in Flathead County as of July 22, Flathead City-County Health Department officials are “urging business owners and community members to make responsible choices and to take all necessary precautions to keep businesses operating.”

Flathead County also has 10 active hospitalizations, although eight of the hospitalized patients are residents of another county.

With many cases reported in bars and restaurants, officials say the volume of potential close contact exposure has also risen.

When an employee tests positive for COVID-19, a health department public health nurse conducts a case investigation of all the positive employee’s close contacts, says Tamalee St. James Robinson, the Flathead City-County Health Department Health Officer. Those contacts are put into isolation for 14 days after exposure and monitored by staff for signs and symptoms.

While there’s no protocol for bars and restaurants to follow besides 14-day isolation in the event of a positive case, Robinson says if there were an outbreak of multiple employees, the health department would most likely ask the business to conduct a deep cleaning. However, Robinson says these instances would be situational, depending on the establishment’s size and employee volume.

“There’s no cookie-cutter answer,” Robinson said.

On July 15, Gov. Steve Bullock initiated a mask requirement in counties with four or more active cases to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

“It is evident that our county is seeing community spread,” Robinson said. “We are asking everyone to take Gov. Bullock’s directives seriously to protect the health and wellbeing of our community.”

Officials remind community members to wear a mask in public, stay six feet apart from non-household members and stay at home if you feel sick.

“We all must do our part to keep our businesses open during these unprecedented times,” Robinson said.

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