Board of Health discusses group gatherings

Brendan Heidner
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Article Image Alt Text

As updates on COVID-19 cases continue to slow, the Dawson County Board of Health works to find the best way for Dawson County to move forward in reopening.

Preparing for Gov. Steve Bullock’s phase 2 of reopening the state, Dawson County Health Department Director Timber Dempewolf proposed an idea to have people looking to schedule an event submit event proposals to the board of health for approval.

“If you have an event, you need to tell us what the event looks like (and) what practices are in place to give us some idea of what’s going on and then we can have a conversation about if there is other practices that they should be doing,” she said.

Members of the board agreed with Dempewolf’s idea, sharing they think the idea would be helpful not only to the board of health, but also organizers planning the event.

“I think it would be helpful for organizations when we start having larger numbers that they can get a plan together and maybe have a roster of who was at the event so that we can give them guidance on how to operate,” Dawson County Commissioner Dennis Zander said.

Board member Cindy Heidt added as the season for family reunions and weddings approaches, “it might be good to have that information.”

On the question of liability, Dempewolf said she asked the state if there would be any legal issue with asking for event proposals if a case of COVID-19 was traced back to an approved event.

“The state’s response was no, we’re providing sound public health guidance, but we certainly should run that by our county attorney,” she said.

No vote was taken to move forward with that plan at this time.

In other matters brought before the board of health, Dempewolf provided a clarification on day travel guidelines and other reopenings throughout Montana.

“If (people) have a doctors appointment that is out of state, they can travel for that appointment without having to quarantine for the 14 days,” Dempewolf said.

However, anyone traveling outside the state of Montana for recreational purposes must quarantine for 14 days upon returning.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced Yellowstone National Park will begin reopening at the Wyoming entrances Monday. Entrances to the park through Montana will not open until after June 1.

Dempewolf said youth activities, such as sports, may go on as long as social distancing guidelines are adhered to and extra sanitization methods are in place. No spectators will be allowed to those events at this time.

According to numbers provided by Dempewolf, there were eight new cases of COVID-19 in Montana, bringing the total to 456 with zero still reported in Dawson County.

A total of 25,418 people in the state of Montana have been tested for COVID-19 and 90 of those are in Dawson County.

Deaths from COVID-19 remain the same at 16 and hospitalizations at 63 increased by one in the last week.

Out of the total cases in Montana, Dempewolf said 431 have recovered.

Per the report, Montana is doing well compared to neighboring states.

In the last week, North Dakota had 324 new cases, South Dakota increased with 953 new cases, Wyoming with 57 and Idaho had 166 new cases. Dawson County Disaster

Dawson County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Mary Jo Gehnert notified the board of a conference call she had with the state’s EMS where they warned of a possible spike in COVID-19 cases later in June.

“Simply because of the weather (and) people out doing more and just the gatherings (like) graduations,” she said. “People are getting really tired of being cooped up and the governor isn’t going to keep grandpa and grandma from coming from North Carolina for their only grandchild’s graduation.” The next meeting of the Dawson County Board of Health will take place by conference call on Friday, May 22 at 11 a.m. The public may attend the meeting by dialing (406) 323-9800, using the participant code 8503773 at the time of the meeting.

Reach Brendan Heidner at