Empty Streets

A man crosses the near-empty streets of downtown Bozeman Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

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Gallatin County confirmed more cases of the new coronavirus again Wednesday afternoon as local officials consider extending and expanding business closures meant to stem the spread.

The Gallatin City-County Health Department confirmed five new cases in Gallatin County on Wednesday, bringing the total to 24 cases in the county.

Of the new cases, three consisted of women in their 30s, 40s and 70s. The remainder were men in their 20s and 60s.

Montana had 65 cases statewide as of Wednesday afternoon. The state has now completed 2,193 tests.

The increase comes as county officials consider extending closures on bars and restaurants to April 17 over fears of spreading COVID-19. Local officials will also consider closing other services to relieve the strain on health care officials amid the global pandemic.

The health board will consider ordering tattoo parlors, tanning salons, nail studios, and salons and barbershops to close at a meeting on Thursday at 7 a.m. The board would also consider restrictions on “regular services or other routine gatherings at houses of worship unless the purpose of the gathering is related to assisting in the response” like day care services.

The meeting will take place at the Gallatin County Courthouse at 311 W. Main St. in downtown Bozeman.

Due to social distancing requirements, the board is asking people to watch the meeting by streaming it online at the health department’s website at healthygallatin.org/about-us/minute-meetings-agendas/.

The board’s meeting comes two days after Gov. Steve Bullock announced public schools and dine-in service at bars and restaurants would remain closed until April 10. Bullock also issued a directive that prohibited “nonessential” social and recreational gathering of more than 10 people outside a residence and can’t stay at least 6 feet apart.

The order doesn’t apply to grocery, health care, medical or pharmacy services. However, the state is urging those places to comply with the protocols when possible.

The news release announcing the new cases said social distancing remains the most critical action to slowing the spread of COVID-19. That means limiting contact with other people, staying home whenever possible and frequently washing hands with soap and water.

The release said people should self-isolate when they feel sick, even with mild symptoms, and self quarantine for 14 days after returning from international travel.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.