Public health issues guidance for business closures

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Area businesses seeking clarity on state-ordered closures regarding the new coronavirus prompted Beaverhead County public health officials to issue some basic guidelines.

Meanwhile, Gov. Steve Bullock extended his directives on social distancing and closures to April 10 on Tuesday.

Confirmed community spread of the virus in Gallatin County, and increasing numbers of positive cases, ledd Public Health Director Sue Hansen to stress the restrictions may increase and the timeline extended.

“It is important to understand that the to protect our community. This is to reduce the risk of exposure to your friends, your family, the elderly and the young,” Hansen said Tuesday. “Total shutdown of cities in this country are happening because communities are not taking this situation seriously. We must be diligent and follow the guidelines. If you are worried about your business now, it will be much worse later as stricter and stricter actions are mandated because we let our guard down.”

Twelve new positive cases of the virus were reported in Montana Tuesday morning, and they are occuring from “community spread” – meaning they didn’t come from travelers bringing it into the state. Counties surrounding Beaverhead continue to have new cases, Hansen said, so it is just a matter of time before this county receives a case.

If a business cannot provide services six feet from a client (including hair, skin and nail salons, tattoo parlors and massage services); cannot provide lodging, meals or transportation within the recommended social distancing; and cannot sanitize the business’s equipment or vehicles between clients; the business should shut down until the directives are lifted. That date may be extended by either the county public health officer or Gov. Steve Bullock through their emergency authority.

All members of the public should practice “social distancing” – stay six feet apart when outside; do not be in groups larger than 10 people; elderly or immuno-compromised citizens should stay home when possible; increase hand washing with soap and water, and use hand sanitizer as needed; increase sanitation of hard surfaces (keyboards, mice, cellphones, doorknobs, etc.) with disinfectants (1 tbsp. bleach to one gallon of water); cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of the elbow or tissue, dispose of the tissue and wash hands; stay home when sick and isolate from healthy people.

“The Beaverhead County health officer has the authority to shut down businesses to protect the public from imminent threats (in Montana law). The health officer’s authority supersedes state licensing boards,” Hansen added. “COVID-19 pandemic is currently the biggest threat to our country and our world. We implore all our citizens to please follow these actions to keep our community as safe as possible.”