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Missoula County interpreting Phase Two directives
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Missoula County interpreting Phase Two directives

After Gov. Steve Bullock’s announcement that Montana will enter Phase Two of reopening on June 1, the Missoula City-County Health Department is working to interpret what the new directive will mean locally.

Cindy Farr, incident commander for the local Health Department's COVID-19 response team, said the county received the announcement of the Phase Two plan at the same time as the public.

"The state doesn't have interpretation or guidance documents yet, and we're still working through the language to make sure that we understand what it means locally," Farr said in a video Wednesday.

The governor's Phase Two will allow some relaxing of social distancing measures, group sizes of up to 50 people when social distancing cannot be maintained, and will also allow for some additional businesses to open such as bowling alleys.

Farr said the Health Department will provide any additional local guidance by Thursday, May 28.

“Rest assured that we will not require additional measures unless we absolutely need to,” Farr said.

Phase Two doesn’t start for two more weeks, which Farr noted is the length of another incubation period for COVID-19. Farr said it’s too soon to tell if there will be any additional directives from the county after eight positive cases popped up in the neighboring Ravalli County within the past five days from the same cluster. (At first, Ravalli County reported six new cases Tuesday, but the county later received one additional positive result from the same cluster, for a total of eight active cases.)

Missoula does not currently have any active cases, but Farr pointed out that the eight positive cases in Ravalli are just one less than the number of positive cases Missoula had at the start of Phase One.

“As we've mentioned before, our county is tightly connected with this county due to the essential shopping, work and health care,” Farr said. “The next few weeks can be really informative. Hopefully these cases will stay down in Missoula and surrounding counties won't see any uptick, but we'll need to watch to ensure that we don't set ourselves up for another spike in cases.”

Farr said the county will also need to keep an eye on their testing capacity and their ability to do contact tracing. At the moment, anyone with symptoms who lives or works in health care or as a first responder in Missoula County can call to make an appointment for a free test at the county’s testing site at the fairgrounds, or at one of their mobile sites on certain days.

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