While the state has stopped short of closing certain businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Missoula City-County Health Department on Monday joined other Montana counties in closing bars and restaurants.

Missoula Health Officer Ellen Leahy issued the order on Monday, citing recommendations from the CDC to restrict events to fewer than 50 people.

The order goes into effect at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning and runs through March 24.

“I know that this is a big ask with Saint Patty’s day tomorrow, but this is not a typical time,” Leahy said. “This is a global pandemic of a new virus that spreads easily from person-to-person, and we need everyone’s help in curbing it.”

During a press briefing on Sunday, the health department gave no indication it was planning to close bars and restaurants, though health officials have been consistent in saying that certain mandates could be forthcoming as conditions change.

Health officials in Butte have taken similar steps.

The new order prohibits the operation of bars and dine-in food service, but allows limited services such as drive-thru, take-out and delivery. Other food services are also excluded, including those needed at nursing homes, University of Montana dining, and hospitals.

“We appreciate the cooperation of the businesses affected," Leahy said in a statement. "One of the great things about Missoula is the community-minded approach of the business community. Working together, we can minimize the impact on Missoula’s health and the economy.”

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