For the week ending September 19, Yellowstone County reported an average daily rate of 31 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, with the rate steadily rising ever since. That's according to stats released in a RiverStone Health press conference today, where Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton announced a new health order.

Last week, Felton announced that "immediate" restrictions would be put in place if an average of 50 new cases per 100,000 residents a day was reported. Yellowstone County ended last week with an average of more than 61 new positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

According to statistics announced during the press conference, in the first 10 days of August, there were 1,057 cases in the state of Montana, with Yellowstone County having 265 of those cases. During the first 10 days of September, there were 1,290 new COVID-19 cases in the state, 331 of those in Yellowstone County.

In the first 10 days of October, there were 5,244 new positive COVID-19 cases statewide, with 886 new cases in Yellowstone County.

"The numbers tell the story of how dramatically our situation has worsened over the last three months," said John Felton, CEO of RiverStone Health.

According to COVIDACTNOW.org, Montana currently has the 3rd highest infection rate (per 100,000) in the country, with only North Dakota and South Dakota having higher rates of infection. Yellowstone County has the #18 highest infection rate of any metropolitan city in America, according to current stats on Covid Act Now's website.

According to John Felton, RiverStone Health has a backlog of more than 300 positive COVID-19 cases that, as of this morning, haven't yet been assigned to contact tracers. Felton said the impact on our local hospitals has been "tremendous," and stated that they "cannot keep up with the increasing volume of COVID-19 cases."

A Public Health Officer Order was announced today in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Yellowstone County, and according to John Felton, the order is "a call to everyone to do your part to reduce the spread of the disease." Felton said, "It is not up to public health, or our hospitals, or our doctors and nurses, or our businesses alone to overcome the threat of COVID-19."

Here are some details of the Public Health Officer Order that will go into effect at 8:00 AM MDT on October 14, 2020 and run through 11:59PM MST on November 9, 2020:

  • All restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffee houses, bars, brew pubs, taverns, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs and casinos shall be required to close for inside business no later than 12:30 AM as issued under Governor's directives. All such businesses shall continue to maintain all  social distance, masking requirements, and commitments made under approved Yellowstone County reopening plans for dine-in services.
  • Drive-through and delivery for food services only can continue past 12:30 AM.
  • Expect for otherwise indicated below, all group physical gatherings, including but not limited to all businesses, organizations, and private gatherings shall be limited to no more than 25 individuals, regardless of the ability to physically distance or location. This restriction applies to both indoor and outdoor events.
  • Exceptions include: Houses of worship, who are subject to 50 percent of facility capacity, food service establishments who serve a population who depend on their service as "sole sources of food," and all school districts.

The order will not apply to in-person voting on November 3, and childcare facilities are also exempt, as they play a "critical role in supporting a necessary workforce."

I applaud the many people in our community who are wearing masks, watching their distance by staying six feet away, washing their hands, and avoiding group gatherings and social events, and staying home when they are sick. We need more people to do these proven public health measures to control the spread of the virus, and not put other at risk. John Felton, Yellowstone Co. Public Health Officer

CLICK HERE to see the complete Public Health Officer Order.