The City of Great Falls on Thursday declared a State of Emergency in response to growing concerns about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
During a new conference, civic leaders explained what the order means in terms of daily operations.
Trisha Gardner, the health officer of the City-County Health Department, said that all restaurants in Cascade County will be limited to drive-through, take-out, delivery, and curb-side service only, effective at 6 a.m. on Friday, March 20. The order extends until Friday, March 27, and could be extended. Other businesses ordered to close for the duration of the emergency order include casinos, bars, gyms/fitness centers, bowling alleys, coffee bars, movie theatres, and "other commercial businesses in which people assemble for recreation."
Gardner also noted that although there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Cascade County at this time, there are several "suspect" cases.
City Manager Greg Doyon said parking meter enforcement in downtown Great Falls will be suspended for the duration of the emergency order.
Mayor Bob Kelly said that the decision to declare a state of emergency was unanimously approved by all five city commissioners, adding that the decision was not made lightly.
Kelly also said that people who want to help the community can do so in several ways. He said the Great Falls Public School District is working to help students across the community; click here to visit the GFPS website to find out how you can help.
He said that the United Way of Cascade County is coordinating volunteers and accepting donations to help people who are being directly affected by the crisis. The United Way website states:
United Way of Cascade County has created a COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery fund to support local organizations who are seeing an increased demand on their services. One-hundred percent of the funds donated will be allocated to support service organizations as they address ongoing and new needs within our community. Our initial distributions will focus on adding capacity to the 211 network so they may continue to provide vital information about COVID-19 and community resources, take the burden off healthcare providers and public health officials, and, importantly, capture community-level data that can help us determine where needs are most urgent. Once community-level needs have been determined, distributions will focus on supporting the needs of working families, starting with partners which provide individual assistance with things like rent, utilities, food and more. To donate click here or send checks to United Way, PO Box 1343, Great Falls, MT, 59403. Local help with childcare, food, energy assistance, unemployment assistance, and more is available. People can call the community help resource line 2-1-1 or search www.montana211.org to find resources that fit their needs.
There are still many questions about what types of businesses and organizations are affected by the order; we are working to get more information and will post updates as we get them.
As of Thursday morning (March 19) there are 11 confirmed COVID-19 patients in the state of Montana. Here is the publicly-released information about them:
- Missoula County (4): man in his 50s, woman in her 30s; man in his 20s; man in his 50s
- Gallatin County (3): man in his 40s; man in his 20s; man in his 60s
- Yellowstone County (2): woman in her 50s; woman in her 20s
- Butte-Silver Bow County: man in his 50s
- Broadwater County: man in his 50s
- There is also a Montana woman diagnosed with COVID-19 who is a part-time Lake County resident; she is currently in Maryland with no documented exposures or close contacts in Montana, and was not tested in Montana. She was tested and diagnosed in Maryland, where she currently is residing.
- Cascade County: no COVID-19 cases, no formal restrictions on restaurants
- Some grocery stores begin offering periodic "seniors only" shopping
- Why COVID-19 is causing more concern than the flu
- Free COVID-19 testing and unemployment benefits for Montanans
- Bullock directs two-week closure of public K-12 schools in Montana
- How the coronavirus closure will affect Great Falls Public Schools
- CDC: Cancel or postpone all events with more than 50 people for next 8 weeks
- St. Patrick's Day parade and other events canceled due to coronavirus