Phased reopening to begin soon

County aligns with the state plan
"It is imperative that we remain unified at this moment; that we work together to make this work. This is going to be an endeavor that is laden with risk,” he said. “As people come together, we are going to have greater risk for cases and we are going to have greater risk for hospitalizations, but I also recognize that there is risk to doing nothing and there is risk to not starting this reopening as well,” said Gallatin City-County health officer Matt Kelley.

The Gallatin City-County Board of Health decided this morning to align the conclusion of the local emergency rule with the end of the state’s stay at home directive via a vote of 8-1. 

This means a phased reopening of local businesses and organizations: churches will be given the option to open on April 26, main street and retail businesses on April 27, bars and restaurants on May 4 and schools can return to in-classroom teaching on May 7. Gyms pools and hot tubs are to remain closed during this time. 

Residents are still to avoid groups of more than 10 or situations where social distancing would prove difficult. According to the state plan, “local jurisdictions can enact guidelines that are more restrictive than the State guidelines.” 

Gallatin City-County health officer Matt Kelley kicked off the meeting by outlining the COVID-19 status in Gallatin County and recommending that county measures should closely align with the state’s plan. 

“The governor has laid-out a plan for the state and I think instead of us spending time trying to extend something for a couple of weeks and then potentially getting into fights about whether or not that is warranted, I would prefer to use the county’s resources, the city’s resources, the health department’s resources to getting behind that plan and making it work – making it effective,” he said. 

He noted the sustained plateau of identified cases in Gallatin County – the lack of double digit cases as well as continued testing and that less than 5% of those tests are positive. 

“Most days we are at 1 or 2 positive cases. That is a marked improvement from where we were in late March and early April when we were adding on some days as many as 10-15 cases a day,” he said. 

The state lab is doubling its testing capacity and Bozeman Health is now able to do testing locally. Increasing testing capacity has been a huge step, he noted. 

“As we move forward, I expect the way we think about the virus, what we know about the virus and the way we test will continue to evolve,” he said. 

Social distancing measures allowed for the health department and hospitals to procure vitally important equipment. 

“There was no cache of PPE (personal protective equipment) locally because we were told – for years – that the strategic national stockpile would have the supplies we would need. That didn’t happen,” he said. 

The last six weeks, the health department and hospital have worked tirelessly to create a local stockpile in the case of continued supply chain issues or a surge in cases. 

“It’s not adequate for the long run, but I think healthcare providers have been doing the same thing and our situation is markedly changed. Currently in our local cache we have over 6,000 surgical masks, 2,800 M-95s, 250 face shields, 6,000 pairs of gloves and 375 gowns. We have on order 20,000 M-95s, 10,000 additional surgical masks, a couple of hundred gowns and 250 face shields. We will continue to seek additional resources,” he said. 

He wants everyone to remember what it was like at the beginning: no testing, inadequate PPE, a strategic national stockpile that was unable to address the needs of the nation or the communities, dealing with a new virus – and starting from scratch in identifying close contacts of COVID-19 positive patients. 

He reiterated during his presentation that personal and business sacrifices have been made and this reopening must be done well to honor those sacrifices. 

“It is imperative that we remain unified at this moment; that we work together to make this work. This is going to be an endeavor that is laden with risk,” he said. “As people come together, we are going to have greater risk for cases and we are going to have greater risk for hospitalizations, but I also recognize that there is risk to doing nothing and there is risk to not starting this reopening as well.” 

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