Bozeman City Hall

Bozeman City Hall is pictured on Thursday, August 12, 2021.

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High levels of coronavirus transmission in Gallatin County has prompted the city of Bozeman to reverse its plan to return to in-person meetings next week.

City commission meetings will remain virtual for now, as they have for the entirety the pandemic. A previous plan had called for the commission to host hybrid meetings starting on Tuesday, Sept. 21, with both in-person and virtual attendance options.

Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus said Monday she made the decision within the past few days in wake of increasingly grim-looking COVID-19 surveillance reports in Gallatin County. Andrus noted the caveat to the city’s plan to return to the commission chamber was whether it was safe to do so.

There were 438 active COVID-19 cases in Gallatin County as of Friday, an increase from 314 the week before, according to the city-county health department.

Also on Friday, the department reported 21 people were hospitalized with the virus, and the percentage of positive tests compared to all tests given was 12.6%, a 26% increase from the week before.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists Gallatin County — and much of the state — as having a high level of community transmission of the coronavirus. The CDC recommends everyone in areas with high community transmission wear mask in public indoor settings.

“Right now it feels in some ways that we’re going about things as normal, and things are not normal,” Andrus said. “We have high transmission rates, and we have continually tried to set an example and do the right thing to protect the community and the individuals in our organization as well as the commission.”

There is no firm date for the decision to be revisited, but Andrus said the commission will continue to follow trends like active case numbers and hospitalizations.

The city delayed the move from virtual meetings to the hybrid format earlier this summer to make upgrades to the cable television equipment used to transmit the meetings.

City Manager Jeff Mihelich said in August that the virtual meetings have had notably higher attendance than in-person meetings did prior to the pandemic.

“I think there’s something to be said for going back in person, but I think the other side of it is the community still has access to make public comment and to attend our meetings,” Andrus said. “Putting this off a little while longer and hoping these transmission numbers go down just feels like the right thing to do.”

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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