The Missoula City County Health Department issued a press release on Thursday celebrating a milestone in the battle against the COVID pandemic, but it came with a cautionary note.

Health Officer Ellen Leahy explains.

“The Health Board took action at their February meeting that said, in a nutshell, if we reached a certain level of vaccine administration, it's not anywhere near herd immunity, but it's very progressive one,” began Leahy. “If our case numbers stayed below that 25 per 100,000 indicator that we've been focusing on all this time, that I was directed as Health Officer when we met those parameters, to issue a new order for group events. So we did that today because we met those metrics this week.”

Leahy said the new directive is good news for event planners.

“So the new guidelines are as long as we stay below that incidence metric, then events and event planners in particular, because they have to plan so far in advance and so it gives them more time to plan, then we don't have to redo and approve their plan.”

Leahy then paused and introduced the ‘but’, in the equation.

“There's a ‘but’ here, and that is we are in a race between getting cases down and vaccines up, and so we still have a good two months or easily up to six months of risk that those cases are going to take off way in advance of those vaccines being able to get out in front and prevent them,” she said.

Leahy closed by saying she was pleased with the efforts to vaccinate as many as possible as quickly as possible, but she’s asking the public to please act with caution.

“That's where we're at,” she said. “It's really good. I think it says a lot about Missoula. It says a lot about the commitment and the cooperation we've had here from citizens in wanting to make it safe and coming up with creative ways to do it, and that's what we're relying on. So, good job.”

The benchmark has been set, however, 'event organizers may host events without size restrictions so long as they could still safely distance attendees, ensure attendees would wear face coverings, ensure no one with COVID-19 symptoms is in attendance, and provide hand sanitizing/hand washing stations.'


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