The Roundup -

Richland County Board Of Health Supports Social Distancing


The Richland County Board of Health has reviewed and approved an order adopting Governor Steve Bullock’s recent directive to shelter in place.

The order, released by County Attorney Janet Christoffersen’s office, solidifies Health Officer and local Nurse Practitioner Jacquelyn Free’s stance on social distancing and sheltering in place. “Due to the rapid spread of COVID 19, it is imperative that the citizens do not take the ‘shelter in place’ order lightly.  In order to reduce exposure to the virus, you have to reduce your socialization patterns.  Meaning, social distancing is our only means to combat the spread of this virus at this time,” Free said.

The Richland County Board of Health members met via conference call in a special meeting on Monday, March 30, to consider and ultimately approve the order. The order cites the powers and duties afforded to the Board of Health and Health Officer to protect the public from the introduction and spread of communicable diseases, particularly the potential spread of COVID-19, as reasoning for adopting the Governor’s directive.

The Board’s order allows the terms of the Governor’s directive providing measures to stay at home and designating certain essential functions to be implemented in Richland County, and allows for assistance from law enforcement agents in carrying out those provisions, where necessary.

In plain terms, this means that Richland County residents should stay home as much as possible, except to obtain necessary supplies and go to work in essential industries. For the purposes of enforcement, the Board is relying on the good-faith cooperation of community members to be compliant with these orders. If non-compliance becomes habitual, penalties may be assessed as needed to enforce the order.

The local order does not change what residents have already been asked to do. According to the Governor’s orders and public health recommendations, all Richland County residents should stay home as much as possible, avoiding all gatherings with those outside their household members. This means that adults, teens, and children should not be gathering publicly or privately.

Community members are reminded that they may still run essential errands, like picking up take-out food from local restaurants, as well as groceries and medications, but should limit these trips to about once a week. Governor Bullock encouraged all Montanans to take advantage of warmer weather by spending time outdoors with members of your immediate household as well, while maintaining social distancing of six feet from others.

While these orders and guidelines may mean making tough decisions, like cancelling or postponing birthday parties, proms and other get-togethers, we are all sharing in these tough decisions to help keep Richland County healthy.

For information about the local order, contact the Office of the County Attorney at 406-433-2505. For questions about COVID-19, call the Richland County Health Department’s Information Line at 406-433-6947.


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