MISSOULA — A western Montana community is imposing new restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 as cases continue to rise
Under the new restrictions for Missoula, which will take effect Thursday, businesses will be limited to 50% capacity, groups will be capped at 25 people, alcohol service will stop at 10 p.m. and residents will be asked to stay at home voluntarily, the Missoulian reported Tuesday.
The new restrictions were announced as Gov. Steve Bullock has encouraged local jurisdictions seeing large outbreaks to take additional action to limit the spread of the disease. Missoula health officials have issued citations to numerous businesses for failing to follow local and statewide health mandates, including a mask requirement.
The new restrictions will remain in effect at least until Nov. 12, Missoula City-County Health Department director and health officer Ellen Leahy said. After that, restrictions may be lifted, tightened or remain the same depending on the incidence rate and other factors.
Missoula County reported 51 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a 7-day period, well above the rate health experts have said makes it difficult to control.
The new restrictions will not apply to voting activities, although the Elections Office will still use six-foot distancing, masking and disinfection tactics.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx was visiting Yellowstone County Tuesday, Bullock said during a news conference. She was meeting with officials to discuss the coronavirus outbreak in the region, which has seen the largest in Montana.
Birx’s visit came after Bullock encouraged her to visit counties in the state seeing large outbreaks, the governor said.
The state reported 855 new cases of the respiratory virus Tuesday, bringing the total case count in the state to over 29,000. The number of cases is thought to be far higher because not everyone has been tested and people can have COVID-19 without showing any symptoms.
The state has reported more than 305 deaths related to the virus, and 350 people are currently hospitalized with it.
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.
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