With new cases of COVID-19 on the rise in Gallatin County, at a meeting on Friday morning, the Gallatin City-County Health Board revised a local health rule that includes new restrictions on certain businesses intended to slow transmission of COVID-19.

The new health restrictions went into effect on Friday. According to the Health Board, Gallatin County has seen rapid, widespread, and sustained increases in new cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations, and outbreaks in several long-term care facilities for seniors.

As a result, some hospitals in Montana and surrounding states are nearing capacity. There have also been dozens of COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout Montana.

The Board approved revisions to an emergency rule that governs how certain businesses – including bars, restaurants, gyms and fitness centers, and places of assembly – operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new changes approved by the Health Board are intended to limit close contact between people in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Here are the new rules.

  • Moving the mandatory closing time for bars, tasting rooms, distilleries, casinos, and restaurants two and a half hours earlier, from 12:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and limiting group size at tables to 6 people.
  • Requires that higher-risk businesses – such as gyms/fitness centers, places of assembly, bars, restaurants, distilleries, casinos – limit the number of patrons to 50% of capacity. The Board’s current local emergency rules allow these businesses to operate at 75% of capacity.
  • Limiting most physical group gatherings in Gallatin County to no more than 25 individuals, regardless of the ability to physically distance. This restriction applies to both indoor and outdoor events. Currently, the Board of Health allows groups of up to 50 people without social distancing, and larger groups if social distancing can be accommodated.

The rule revisions include exceptions for certain businesses and organizations where social distancing is most feasible, including houses of worship and certain places of assembly.

The restrictions will be in effect for 90 days or until the board revokes or modifies the rule based on certain epidemiological metrics.

The information in this article was provided in a press release from the Gallatin City- County Health Department.