UPDATED: Public health issues guidance for business closures

Casey S. Elliott
Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Business owners who cannot provide services within recommended guidelines of the Beaverhead County Public Health officer should close until April 10, Public Health Director Sue Hansen said Tuesday.

The new date is in line with Gov. Steve Bullock's extension of his closures and directives for social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Bullock extended the date two weeks on Tuesday.

That date may be extended by either the public health officer or Gov. Steve Bullock's authority to combat the new coronavirus pandemic.

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, Hansen said.

All members of the public should also practice "social distancing" – staying six feet apart when outside; not bein groups larger than 10 people; elderly or immuno-compromised 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.

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, meaning it is just a matter of time before this county receives a case.

"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," Hansen said.

"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."