Missoula County logged more than 20 new cases of COVID-19 over the Independence Day weekend, including 14 on Monday, bringing its running total to more than 123 confirmed cases and several hundred close contacts.
With the case count on the rise and the virus spreading across the community, the Missoula City-County Health Board will convene a special hearing this week to discuss an ordinance requiring face masks in all indoor public places.
The proposal already has the support of both city and county leaders, who urged county health officials to implement the rule sooner than later. That could come to fruition on Thursday depending upon the health board’s decision.
“We’re no longer in a time of COVID-19 being brought in from the outside,” said Cindy Farr, head of the pandemic response. “A lot of people think it’s coming in from travelers. We’re giving it to each other. We’re giving it to our friends, our family and coworkers.”
According to a draft of the proposal released on Tuesday, the rule will require those 12 and over to wear face coverings in all indoor places open to the public. That includes employees and visitors and applies to all businesses open to the public, and under most circumstances.
Exceptions would include when eating, drinking or exercising. No information on enforcement or potential penalties have been announced. The rule could take effect as early as Thursday afternoon pending a vote by the Board of Health.
“It’s a proven, effective safety measure,” said Farr. “We’re seeing again and again in our new cases that we’re infecting those closest to us. We need to continue holding one another accountable for these safety practices.”
One month ago, Missoula County had reported just 44 known cases while the state was at 614. That was two weeks removed from Phase 2 of the state’s economic reopening.
Since then, Missoula County has more than doubled its case count. It now stands at 123 cumulative cases with 58 considered active. Health officials are tracing 320 known contacts.
The state on Tuesday also reported more than 1,327 cases – more than double one month ago. Billings reported 50 new cases in a single day Tuesday, and state health officials attributed the spike to an outbreak in an assisted living facility – one of the most vulnerable populations.
“If our nurses contact you, it’s because you were identified as a close contact through their case investigation. Please be respectful and cooperative, as they’d doing the best they can to protect the public.”
Residents can comment on the proposed face mask ordinance by following this link.