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

Montana, Yellowstone County Step Up Health Order Enforcement Measures

Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton announces four new COVID educational liaison positions, created to help enforce county health orders in place to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, at a press conference in Billings Oct. 22, 2020.
Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton announces four new COVID educational liaison positions, created to help enforce county health orders in place to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, at a press conference in Billings Oct. 22, 2020.

Montana and Yellowstone County officials on Thursday announced new measures to enforce public health orders like mask mandates and business capacity restrictions as the state recorded its largest single day new case count of the COVID-19 illness.

Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton said the county is planning to hire four COVID Education Liaisons, preferably with a law enforcement background, to follow up with citizen complaints of businesses, organizations and individuals violating state and local health orders.

“We see serious need for this stepped up response to complaints in Yellowstone County as we try to slow down the surge of COVID-19 cases,” Felton said.

Felton said the county health department has received nearly 180 complaints since Oct. 1st.

The liaisons will first try to educate people on how to comply. If they haven’t improved by a follow up visit, Felton said the liaisons will send evidence over to the county attorney’s office.

The temporary liaison positions will be funded through CARES Act money funneled through the state.

Governor Steve Bullock said the state health department is bringing enforcement actions against five businesses in Flathead County that repeatedly violated health orders after opportunities to comply.

“These businesses are putting people at significant risk,” Bullock said.

Bullock said the state is working with other counties to investigate compliance.

He also announced the state health department’s new feature on its website that allows people to report businesses and event organizers that are violating health orders. The health department will review those complaints and send them on to the appropriate authority for follow up.

He said the information will be added to a database that tracks other consumer health and safety complaints and the state can follow up with the most egregious offenders.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

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