Possible Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations spur sweeping action by health department

Bars, tasting rooms and restaurant dining rooms closed in Gallatin County through March 24

The Gallatin City-County Health Department issued a sweeping order on Monday, March 16 in response to COVID-19 pandemic concerns and the potential for crowds to gather in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day.

That order stipulates the closure of all bars, brew pubs, wineries and distilleries with public tasting rooms and casinos in Gallatin County beginning Mon, March 16 at 9 p.m. and extending through March 24. Restaurants are instructed to close dining room services during that time, but take-out and delivery service is allowed to operate. 

This order takes into consideration the recent Centers for Disease Control recommendations for social distancing and avoiding gatherings of 50 people or more. 

“Our goal in taking these actions is to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in order to allow our healthcare system to prepare, build resources and plan,” Gallatin City-County Health Department officer Matt Kelley said. “We know these actions will create significant and lasting economic impact and disruption and we do not take them lightly. But in light of the current situation, we feel it is a necessary step.”

The restrictions do not apply to grocery stores, deli counters within grocery stores or convenience stores, a press release stated. The order does allow limited exceptions for university-based dining facilities or cafeterias in hospitals and care facilities – establishments that are the primary meal sources for a population that depends on it as one of its sole or primary sources of food.

“This situation is serious enough to warrant school closures so it seems reasonable and prudent to put off St. Patrick’s Day celebrations until after a pandemic response,” Kelley said.

This step in Gallatin County is similar to measures announced in other parts of the nation including Illinois, California, New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan and Washington. 

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