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Business & Economics

Gallatin Health Department Planning For Gradual Reopening Of Businesses

A sign in the window of a restaurant in Bozeman, Montana outlines service options during COVID-19, Apr. 9, 2020.
Rachel Cramer/Yellowstone Public Radio
A sign in the window of a restaurant in Bozeman, Montana outlines service options during COVID-19, Apr. 9, 2020.

The Gallatin City-County Health Department said Friday it’s working with business owners and faith groups to coordinate a gradual reopening of non-essential services.

Health Officer Matt Kelley said reopening won’t be flipping a switch. Rather, it will be like dialing a rotary phone with pauses in between.

“We’re seeing some promising indicators that we’re bending the curve; we’re being successful at reducing the number of cases, and that’s due to a lot of effort by a lot of people throughout our society, including business owners who have sacrificed a great deal,” Kelley said.

Earlier Friday Governor Steve Bullock said the state will begin a gradual, phased reopening after his stay-at-home order, intended to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, along with other directives to close non-essential services, expire next Friday, Apr. 24.

Kelley said Gallatin County’s health department put together a focus group with business owners and faith leaders to figure out how to safely reopen in phases.

He said the reopening of certain businesses could be dependent on being able to keep six feet of distance between people. The health department is also looking at what personal protective equipment and cleaning standards would be needed for workers and customers to stay safe.

“The very simple truth of this is that the more contact we have between people, the more likely we’re going to see cases transmit to others,” Kelley said.

He said Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital is now set up for on-site testing for COVID-19, which will speed up the wait time to know who is infected with the disease. Kelley said contact tracing could become more difficult as public spaces reopen.

“What concerns me I think is that expectation that we can do population-based testing at a massive level. I don’t think we’re there yet, and I think we need a national strategy there,” Kelley said.

Statewide closure and stay-at-home orders remain in effect through next Friday, Apr. 24.