Polson directive ‘strongly’ encourages masks as cases spike

by MATT BALDWIN
Lake County Leader | July 9, 2020 12:50 PM

In consideration of a recent uptick of COVID-19 cases in Lake County, the city of Polson on Thursday issued a directive “strongly encouraging” the use of masks in public.

“To help protect our vulnerable community members as well as maintain our open business climate, science has shown that using masks will help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” the directive states.

The recommendation was issued by Polson Mayor Paul Briney and interim City Manager Wade Nash on the same day Lake County reported 14 new virus cases, the area’s highest tally for a single day.

As of Thursday there were 26 active cases in Lake County, the most in Western Montana behind only Missoula County’s 53 active cases.

According to Lake County-CSKT Unified Command Center, there is also evidence of community spread of COVID-19 in the Mission Valley. Community spread is when someone contracts a virus and the source of that infection cannot be determined.

“This is a substantial change as community spread is the mechanism that allows a virus to spread quickly throughout a community,” the Command Center noted in a media release. “Our community has limited first responder and emergency health professionals and any infections in those populations can have dramatic and negative impacts to our community.”

As part of its directive, Polson is also closing its City Hall to walk-in visitors. All business is to be conducted online or over the phone. The closure is in place through at least July 21.

Meanwhile, the CSKT Tribal Council decided Tuesday to extend its shelter-in-place order indefinitely. Prior to the decision, the Council was on course to rescind the order on July 13.

The Tribal-managed KwaTawNuk Resort in Polson announced Wednesday it was closing its casino for at least 14 days, “out of an abundance of caution and commitment to doing the right thing.” A day prior the resort said that an employee had tested positive. The resort’s hotel will remain open but is only accepting reservations up to 75% occupancy.

Polson’s directive follows suit with other local governments that are urging residents to wear masks.

On Monday, the Whitefish City Council approved a resolution encouraging mask use. The Missoula City-County Board of Health was scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposed mask mandate for all public indoor spaces.

The Montana University System’s health task force also is encouraging masks on public campuses.