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Health Department issues guidance for high- population events


Last updated 5/29/2020 at 12:10pm

The Hill County Health Department released documents this week to the public providing guidance for people looking to hold events with more then 50 attendees and asking for details about how these events would stay within Gov. Steve Bullock’s Phase Two re-opening guidelines.

“We just wanted to put it out there that we are here to help people trying to plan these kinds of events and that we’re not here to just shut down events, but just to make them as safe as possible for people attending,” Public Health Director Kim Larson said.

The document asks for contact information for event organizers and asks some basic questions about the event to give the Health Department an idea of what can be done to make such an event feasible within the guidelines. This includes what the event organizers plans are for ensuring social distancing.

“Once you get 50 or more people you have to be able to socially distance those groups,” Larson said. “Whether that means a reduction in capacity, moving seating or whatever it happens to be.”

The Health Department is also offering recommendations on how to handle proper sanitization, particularly in areas and events serving food.

She said the department would also be willing to help set up signage for these kinds of events.

“It’s a pretty simple document, I didn’t want to make it complex, but I did want it to be there to help people plan for these kinds of events,” she said.

Larson said she got five or six responses in 24 hours when the documents were sent out to the public and she thinks, so far, the responses have been encouraging.

She said there haven’t been any event plans submitted to the department that were completely unworkable, but there is a possibility that some event plans may not be feasible as submitted.

In such a case, Larson said, the Health Department would send a letter in response talking about what changes would need to be made to stay within the guidelines, or to simply say that they cannot recommend an event to go forward.

However, she said, she’s confident that a lot of events just need a bit of brainstorming to make possible, at least in some capacity.

“If we get enough brains together, we can think of creative ways to get some of these events to happen safely,” Larson said.

She said the department has already created documents specifically for the Great Northern Fair and they were submitted to the Fair Board shortly after the guidelines for Phase Two were released, outlining what would need to happen for it to stay within those guidelines.

“Phase Two opens up a lot for the fair,” Larson said, “It allows the rodeos and all of that, it’s just that social distancing when you have 50 or more people and how you’re going to incorporate that and ensure that it’s happening. That, I feel, would be the hardest part.”

But she said the decision whether to hold the fair is ultimately up to the fair board and the Health Department would be available to help.

“If the Fair Board decides to go ahead with the fair, we will be there every step of the way,” she said.

Larson said the recent CARES Act funds received by the Health Department have allowed them to purchase mobile hand-washing stations that would be helpful for situations like the Great Northern Fair, in addition to hand sanitizer stations that the department already has access to.

Great Northern Fair Board Chair Bobbie Dolphay said the board would have no comment on these documents until a decision was made about whether the fair would proceed at their special meeting Tuesday.

She said the department wants to work with people in the area as much as possible to make events happen in a safe manner.

“The whole point of this was to partner with our community members and make the activities in our area as safe as possible,” she said, “We are here if people have questions, or if people want to just run an event past us.”


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