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Yellowstone County health officer issues new COVID orders, mostly mirroring state directives

Exception: No non-school-affiliated games and performances
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Posted at 2:53 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 00:01:44-05

Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton issued a new health order Thursday afternoon, which mostly aligned with statewide orders announced this week with a few exceptions.

Felton said at a news conference at RiverStone Health that all places of assembly, including retail stores, bars, casinos, churches, gym, salons and others, must close at 10 p.m. and reopen no earlier than 4 a.m. All of those places must operate at 50 percent capacity, down from current capacity levels of 75 percent. Exceptions include healthcare organizations and pharmacies, although pharmacies are only allowed to sell prescriptions past closing time. Restaurants may provide takeout and drive-through food after 10 p.m. also.

That order goes into effect at 8 a.m. Nov. 20 and runs through the end of the year.

Felton also extended his order limiting all indoor and outdoor gatherings to 25 people through the end of the year.

The orders limiting capacity and gathering sizes mostly mirror the restrictions ordered by Gov. Steve Bullock Tuesday.

Felton added an additional restriction for Yellowstone County: banning all sports events involving multiple teams and group performances. These restrictions do not apply to school sports and performances, which are regulated by the school district.

“It is clear that the safeguards put in place so far have not been enough to slow the spread of the virus in Yellowstone County,” Felton said.

Read the full order here.

Yellowstone County has 4,946 active cases of COVID-19, the most in the state, and 109 deaths.

Felton said Yellowstone County reported 1,100 new cases last week and is on track to report another 1,000 new cases this week.

He noted that 152 people were hospitalized in Yellowstone County with COVID-19 on Monday and Wednesday, both records since the start of the pandemic.

Felton added that the county will deploy its two-person COVID education liaison team next week to investigate complaints of violations, such as no face masks in businesses or over capacity.

The county hired four COVID education liaisons in two-person teams, paid for with federal coronavirus relief dollars from the CARES Act.

Felton also urged other actions to prevent COVID spread and help businesses most affected:

  • Stay home, except for work, school and other essential activities.
  • Work from home, if possible, and use technology for remote meetings.
  • Keep holiday celebrations small while using technology to connect with friends and family.
  • Support local food establishments by ordering delivery, drive-through and take-out.
  • Support local businesses by shopping with their remote ordering and delivery services.

Watch the full news conference below: