Reopening guidelines issued for gyms, theaters

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Beaverhead County will continue to operate by appointment only, until all departments have the supplies they need to keep employees and the public safe from potential coronavirus spread.

County officials met two weeks ago as the state began looking toward partial reopening of businesses and other establishments, and department heads mapped out what they would need to do to feel safe opening the courthouse doors to walk-in traffic.

On Monday, many of those officials reported they are still trying to get items they ordered, and did not feel they could provide the public the necessary health safety and peace of mind without them.

“The public say they’ll go into a place if they feel comfortable. But they’ve got to feel comfortable going in there,” Justice Court Judge Candy Hoerning said. “They have to feel safe, and we have to feel safe letting them in.”

Despite the safety equipment supply problems, Commissioner Mike McGinley said he thought a government organization should have its doors open for business.

“When you talk of ‘bending the curve,’ how many people in the state of Montana caught (coronavirus) in the last 10 days? It’s bent – it’s down, and the county’s safer yet,” he said. “Why not open now, instead of May 18?”

County Attorney Jed C. Fitch said the county should have its protocols for health safety in place before taking that step, unless services cannot be provided otherwise. He added the county should at the minimum abide by restrictions it lists for business reopenings.

“We don’t want the public denied services, but we want to maintain protection for the public at large and employees,” he said.

Department heads said they have been able to provide services through telephone, electronic or other means without issues. There is also a doorbell on the courthouse front door that is monitored during business hours.

The commission will revisit the issue at its May 18 meeting.

Gyms, movie theaters can reopen Friday

With new coronavirus cases in the single digits over the past week, state officials developed phase one reopening guidelines for gyms, pools, movie theaters and museums.

There were 461 cases and 16 deaths from COVID-19 in the state as of Tuesday, according to state data. That’s five more cases and no new deaths as of the same time the prior week. Active hospitalizations and active cases continue to decline across the state. There were no new cases or deaths in Beaverhead and Madison counties.

Nationally, there were more than 1.3 million cases and over 79,700 deaths as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Gov. Steve Bullock issued the gym and theater reopening guidelines to take effect May 15. Those guidelines require a maximum 50 percent capacity, regular cleaning and sanitation for frequentlytouched surfaces, maintaining physical distancing between patrons and staff, and mask-wearing wherever possible. The full list of restrictions can be viewed at

Beaverhead County Public Health will consider its local guidelines for these facilities at its May 15 meeting. Draft guidelines indicate the department may request written plans from those businesses and organizations for how they will comply with the restrictions, as it did for restaurants and bars in the county.

County offices maintain status quo for virus closures