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No local restrictions planned in wake of Gianforte changes

 

Last updated 1/18/2021 at 1:40pm



In the wake of Gov. Gianforte rescinding most of Montana’s COVID-19 related public health mandates, Hill County Public Health Director and Health Officer Kim Larson said the county will not create any local mandates to replace them.

At the Hill County Board of Health’s weekly COVID-19 update last Friday Larson said new cases in the state and county are decreasing and the numbers in Hill County don’t justify creating any more mandates.

“I don’t believe our numbers, at this time, support doing anything more restrictive,” she said. “… I believe we should support the governor’s plan, move forward and see how it goes. Hopefully the numbers will stay low and continue to decrease.”

Hill County Board of Health had put restrictions in place in early November, but did not renew them because most were covered in directives issued by Gov. Steve Bullock about two weeks after the Hill County mandates were issued.

The number of new cases in this region and the state dropped dramatically by December.

Gov. Greg Gianforte rescinded most of Bullock’s directives effective last Friday, and he is talking about lifting Bullock’s mask mandate as well.

Larson said Montana saw last Friday 515 new cases state-wide, with 60 active cases in Hill County which she said is a noticeable drop.

She said the Hill County Health Department is keeping track of 131 people in quarantine.

Larson also provided an update on the county’s vaccine rollout and said the health department would finish Phase 1A, which includes front-line health care workers and long-term care facility staff and residents, that day.

She said they will officially begin Phase 1B Thursday Jan. 21, with a vaccination clinic for people 70 and older.

She said the department opened appointments for that clinic at 1 p.m. on Thursday, and all 200 slots were full by 3:30 p.m. that day.

The waiting list for the next clinic has about 150-160 people on it, she said.

Larson said this should be the beginning of weekly vaccination clinics in which the county will be working with Bullhook Community Health Center and Northern Montana Health Care.

Larson said a lot of things moving forward depend on how much of the vaccine the county is allocated by the state health department and, depending on how much they get, the next clinic may not even have appointments advertised because there are still so many on the waiting list.

She said she sent notices to local media including the Havre Daily News to advertise the clinic after announcing it on the department’s Facebook page but they filled so fast it couldn’t be advertised in time.

She said the department is planning to get those notices to local media a few days before they begin taking appointments from now on.

Larson said the department is monitoring their phones for appointments Mondays through Fridays with the exception of today, which is a holiday for the department.

The department has been instructed, she said, not to turn eligible people away from getting the vaccine even if they don’t live in Hill County, but she’s not sure what the surrounding counties are doing in that regard.

She said people should call ahead if they are looking to get vaccinated in another county which may have a closer clinic.

Larson said, the Centers for Disease Control’s guidance says people who get the vaccine will still need to quarantine if they are found to be a close contact of a COVID-19 case.

She said the CDC will keep this guidance in place until more research is done about whether people can still carry the disease after being vaccinated for it.

She said she suspects this guidance will change at some point, but more data is needed before a judgment can be made.

“There’s just not enough research yet,” she said.

Bullhook Community Health Center CEO Kyndra Hall said their partnership with the Hill County Health Department continues and vaccinations and contact tracing efforts are still going well.

Larson also talked about Havre Public Schools, which will see K-5 students returning to in-class learning Tuesdays through Fridays beginning this week.

Middle school and high school students will follow suit next week when their next semester begins.

Because the Hill County Board of Health will hold its quarterly meeting Wednesday at noon in the Hill County Courthouse Annex Meeting Room, no COVID-19 update will be held this week.

 
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