Businesses in the Billings area ordered closed by public health officials will have to keep their doors shut for another two and a half weeks, according to an update from Yellowstone County.
John Felton, Yellowstone County health officer and president and CEO of RiverStone Health, said in a news release that he has extended the one-week closure until 11:59 p.m. on April 10.
Felton also broadened his closure order to fitness operations with indoor group programs including health clubs, health spas, gyms, dance and gymnastic studios, and others; as well as massage practices; theaters; recreational centers; churches; funeral establishments and activities; and others.
The new, broader order does not include personal, one-on-one fitness training or instruction, provided no more than five people are present and that they are spaced at least six feet apart.
The new closures take effect at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 21, Felton said during a press conference Friday afternoon.
The closures are aimed at slowing the spread of the new coronavirus.
Previously closed establishments in the county include restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffee houses, bars, brew pubs, taverns, breweries and others.
Those businesses were ordered to remain closed to dine-in customers, but they may continue to provide take-out and delivery services.
Food service establishments that serve a population that depends on it as one of its sole sources of food can continue operating using only necessary personnel.
These include university dining facilities, cafeterias in hospital and care facilities, crisis shelters or similar institutions, and others.
The dates are subject to change depending on how COVID-19 progresses in the county and state, Felton said. As of 6:30 p.m. Friday 21 cases had been confirmed in Montana, five of which are in Yellowstone County.
“This is not easy. It is not lost on me that the consequences of this order not only affect your friends and neighbors, they affect my friends and neighbors,” Felton said. “We’re a community, and we’re all being impacted by this virus and by the response to try and prevent its wide spread.”
The extension followed an earlier announcement Friday from Gov. Steve Bullock, who ordered the closure statewide of bars, gyms and other businesses for one week.
Many county health officers had already ordered limited closures.
Under Montana law, public health officers in Montana can take steps to limit contact between people in order to protect public health, Jeana Lervick with the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office, said Friday. Those steps can include closing buildings, canceling events, implementing quarantine and isolation measures, and working with the courts to penalize those who violate the health orders, according to the Montana Code Annotated 50-2-118.
“The Legislature intended for this public health officer to make fast, intelligent decisions based on the means of the public as a whole,” Lervick said.
These Billings restaurants, cafes and other food and drink businesses are offering either pickup, delivery or both during restrictions related to the coronavirus.