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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Missoula Salons, Farmers Markets Cleared To Reopen With Restrictions

A woman getting her hair washed at a salon.

Missoula hasn’t had a new COVID-19 case in more than two weeks and the local health department says there are no active cases in the county. That means health orders affecting some local businesses are about to change.

The phones of Missoula barbers and hair stylists have likely been blowing up since this morning when word came down they’ll soon be back in business.

Missoula Health Officer Ellen Leahy Friday updated local health orders affecting grooming, beauty, body art, piercing, massage and spa services.

"They can open effective Monday, May 11th," she said.

That’s a big turnaround from April 24 when Missoula officials opted to take a more conservative approach to lifting COVID-19 restrictions than the one offered by Gov. Steve Bullock’s phased reopening plan. Missoula’s salons and personal service businesses stayed shuttered, even as others in the state slowly reopened.

But Friday's announcement isn’t a carte blanche for Missoula business owners. Leahy says they’ll need to detail plans for employee health screenings, social distancing, face-covering use as well as cleaning and sanitation regimes.

"They do not have to turn it in, but we do want them to have it on hand. That way, if we get a complaint, we’re able to talk to the business."

Missoula’s farmer’s markets will be allowed to open starting May 23. Up to 250 people will now be allowed in. But vendor’s tables will be spaced 6 feet apart, social distancing rules will apply and all vendors, employees and volunteers must screen for symptoms before being allowed to work.

Schools can hold graduation ceremonies, but they’ll be limited to a total of 250 people, again with plans in place for sanitation and social distancing.

If health officers see a spike in cases in the next couple of weeks, they can rescind or modify any of these relaxed orders.

Missoula COVID-19 incident commander Cindy Farr says local testing capability has dramatically improved over the past couple of weeks. She says the county is now able to test anyone with symptoms.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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