Downtown Business

A pedestrian walks past a closed business in downtown Bozeman.

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Gallatin County health officials extended business closures by a week, added some businesses and included language in its order that allows certain places to deliver alcoholic beverages to customers.

The Gallatin City-County Board of Health voted Thursday to amend its emergency health rule to close businesses until April 17, an order meant to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The order allows bars and restaurants to continue offering takeout and curbside services. The order also allows businesses like bars, distilleries and breweries to hand deliver alcohol to their customers who order online or by phone.

The rule now requires tattoo parlors, nail studios, and salons and barbershops to close. It also restricts “regular services or other routine gatherings at houses of worship unless the purpose of the gathering is related to assisting in the response” to the virus, like day care services.

The board voted to include tanning salons and museums in the rule. Health officer Matt Kelley also requested the order restrict social gatherings of more than 10 people outside a residence if they are unable to maintain 6 feet apart.

Kelley pointed out that the county has one hospital in Bozeman and one medical center in Big Sky. He said the health board is using its tools to protect those resources and other health care providers here. The goal of extending the rules, he said, is to avoid crowds of people gathering that will allow the virus to spread from one person to hundreds and eventually overwhelm those health care providers.

Kelley shared a story about a friend who texted him after finishing her first shift at a respiratory clinic in another state. She was on her way home to have dinner with her husband and four children. She was planning on doing that in the basement of her house via video conference to ensure that she did not pass a virus onto them.

All over, Kelley said, health care providers are “gowning up” and wearing masks — some of them reused — to serve the people here. Kelley asked to keep those people in mind during this time.

“And as we make decisions — small and big decisions — decisions about distancing ourselves from others to slow the spread of the virus, I ask that we think about those people sacrificing for us,” Kelley said.

Becky Franks, the board chair, said the health board received about 160 emailed comments about the rule change.

She said a “strong majority” welcomed the new restrictions to do what it can to “flatten the curve.” However, Franks said, a significant number of people urged the board to consider the livelihood and the economic impact of expanding closures.

“That’s what makes this all very, very difficult,” she said.

The board voted 8 to 1 to approve the new emergency rules with Gallatin County Commissioner Joe Skinner voting against.

The extended closure came the same day Gov. Steve Bullock issued a stay-at-home order. The governor’s order extends until April 10, and it will still allow restaurants to continue offering curbside and takeout services.

As of Thursday afternoon, Gallatin County had 38 confirmed coronavirus cases. Montana had 90 cases statewide.

Tracy Knoedler, with the health department, said the health department started seeing cases that it could not definitively tie to travel starting on Saturday. She didn’t have a number for how many of the county’s cases had been contracted locally, but said the bottom line was that we have community transmission here.

“We need to really focus on the fact that it’s here and that we should be acting as such,” Knoedler said.

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