City and County Leaders Encourage Vaccinations – No New Mandates
Missoula Mayor John Engen, County Commissioner Chair Josh Slotnick, OEM Director Adriane Beck and the new Health Officer of the Missoula City County Health Department, D’Shane Barnett held a Microsoft Teams press conference to discuss the current COVID 19 situation.
Barnett said that COVID infection rates have indeed risen dramatically in the past few weeks.
“Our daily incidence of new cases by a rolling seven day average has gone up to 20,” said Barnett. “About three weeks ago we were at three, so that is a significant upswing. We see the all of the other epidemiological indicators are going up along with that.”
Barnett also addressed what is called the ‘doubling rate’ of infections, or how long it takes for that initial number to double.
“As of Monday, our doubling time was at 27 days, which means that if cases maintained exactly where they are now, within 27 days, we would double the number of active cases that we have, and we don't want that,” he said. “We want that number to be getting much larger and eventually get to where we're halving the number of cases.”
Mayor Engen said as of now there are no mandates planned, and in fact, mandates have been prohibited by state law.
“We don't have authority to mandate,” he said. “Frankly even if we did, I'm not sure we'd be in a position to do that. The mandates that were in place were largely self enforced. We didn't have the ‘mask police’ out and we didn't require it, because this community was thoughtful and cooperative and collaborative and our hope is that we continue to engage in that thoughtful collaborative activity. As residents, we can do a lot to help each other.”
Barnett said the health department’s strategy is to keep as many people out of the hospital as possible, so that those who become critically ill can receive the care they need.
“What we do know is that the vaccines, it even though some people may become positive, they are either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic,” he said. “What we're really trying to do is keep people out of the hospital, and then those who do need to be hospitalized, to keep them from being intubated and keep them from dying, and the vaccines are still absolutely our best tool at accomplishing that.”
Vaccinations and testing are available free of charge at Lucky's Market in Southgate Mall.
Commissioner Slotnick told KGVO after the press conference that Missoulians should use ‘situational awareness’. If you and the people you are with are vaccinated, there’s no reason to wear a mask, however, if you will be around children or those who may be immunologically compromised, wearing a mask might be a good idea.
Even though there is no mask mandate, the owner of a private business does have the right to ask their customers to wear a mask.