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Reopening Missoula County

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Why now, and how to keep employees and customers safe in the time of COVID-19


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Missoula County's Reopening Strategy 

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This is the right time to start moving forward, and we can do so responsibly. We are at a different place than than we were in April. We haven’t had any new or active cases in weeks. Our close contacts in quarantine are now at zero, and our testing capacity and the number of people tested continues to improve.

  • The directives for “stay at home” and social distancing measures made an impact. While we work to get to a “new normal,” we need to appreciate that there is still a risk. We want the sacrifices and the work we’ve all put into this to matter. That is why it’s important we all work together.
  • While things are opening, it does not mean that COVID-19 is gone. Everyone still needs to practice social distancing, good hygiene and staying home when they are sick. Remember that small changes in behavior matter.
  • Reopening Missoula is a cooperative process. The health department gets COVID-19 guidance from the state health department, Governor Bullock, and health organizations like Johns Hopkins and CDC. Environmental health uses guidance to work with businesses and organizations on ways to minimize the risk of COVID-19 for customers and employees. This guidance will evolve based on case numbers and the risks we’re seeing locally, as well as requirements from the state.

Continuous Reassessment

The health department will continuously assess local numbers and resources. We will take into consideration several things from testing capacity, case numbers, how the virus is spreading, our health care resources, and our ability to do contact tracing. We hope that by moving forward responsibly and gradually, we won’t have to go back, and everyone’s hard work will pay off.


Phased Approach

Reopening is, by necessity, a gradual process. This is new territory, and it means caution is warranted.  We don’t want to be in a position where we open everything back up (i.e., return to “normal”) and risk significant numbers of newly diagnosed cases, and then need to close everything again. Pretty much the last thing anyone wants is to start over with closures and prolonged stay at home orders.  If we open up bit by bit and develop new practices and ways of coexisting and caring for each other, we can hopefully keep new cases at a manageable level and transition to our new normal.


 Image stating phase requirement and interpertation from the governor's office ten to change quicly and often.  Changes could come about based on Governor's and Health officer's review of the epidemiological situation.  Check back often for updated guidance.

What businesses need to do to protect employees and customers.

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*Retail/Businesses in General*

 *Food and Beverage Establishments*

*Farmers Markets*

 *Personal Care Services*


 *Pools & Hot Tubs Guidance (Revised - 06/15/2020)*

 *Movie Theaters and Museums*

 *Additional Recommendations*


Retail/Businesses in General

Businesses have a responsibility to institute protective measures to lower the risk of COVID-19 to their employees and customers. They are making a lot of changes in how they carry out operations and serve their customers. 

Here’s the list of what businesses in Missoula County are required to do per the governor’s directive and health officer’s order:

  • Health assessments must be conducted for all employees at the beginning of each shift,
  • In establishments where customers wait in a line, non-household customers should remain physically distanced;
  • Physical distancing of 6 feet must be maintained between non-congregate customers;
  • Waiting areas where adequate physical distancing cannot be maintained must be closed
  • At any given time, the maximum number of customers shall be 75% of usual business capacity;
  • Measures are in place to protect customers and staff waiting in line at checkout counters, such as visible markers or signs denoting six-foot separation or temporary barriers;
  • Staff have received training on practicing good hygiene, maintaining physical distancing, recognizing the symptoms of COVID-19, and not reporting to work if experiencing symptoms;
  • The business must develop and implement an individualized plan addressing the requirements in the Governor’s re-opening directive and the Health Officer’s Order. The completed plan must be maintained on site and be made available to the Health Department upon request;
  • Customers should be encouraged to call for a reservation or an appointment, or establishments should use an online wait listing application; 



Food and Beverage Establishments

There are additional requirements for dine-in service at food and beverage establishments:

  • All seated groups of customers in food and drink establishments must be at least 6 feet from other customers, including those sitting in booths;
  • A specific cleaning plan must be implemented, and employees must be trained in proper sanitation practices. Materials will be available on the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) food and consumer services website;
  • All surfaces occupied must be cleaned between customers, including tables, chairs, booths, and highchairs;
  • Table items including, condiments, menus, napkins, and décor, should be removed from the table unless they can be adequately cleaned between customers;
  • Menus must be cleaned between customers;
  • Growlers and refillable or reusable containers must be cleaned prior to being refilled;
  • Gaming machines must be adequately cleaned between customers;
  • All patrons must be out of bars, restaurants, and casinos by 11:30 p.m. (Breweries and distilleries shall follow existing laws on closing time.) 


Farmer's Markets

Additional requirements for Farmer's Markets:

  • Before the first event, organizers must complete a Farmers’ Market Operation Plan that shows how they will meet the minimum requirements and submit it to the Missoula City-County Health Department for approval.  The plan must be submitted at least 8 working days before the first event to or 301 West Alder, Missoula, MT 59802.  The Department will provide responses to completed plans within one week of receiving the plan.  Responses may include event-specific requirements or requests for more information.  A market shall not operate without the written approval of its Operating Plan from the Missoula City-County Health Department.
  • The market is limited to the sale of unprocessed agricultural products and may not include entertainment or activities.
  • The market must put adequate provisions in place to ensure vendors and customers can maintain 6-foot physical distancing. At a minimum, that must include the following:
    • Organizers must pre-determine the number of people who can safely attend the event so that physical distancing can be maintained.  In no circumstance can the predetermined number exceed 250 people, including vendors, staff, volunteers, and customers.  Organizers must ensure that the predetermined number of people is not exceeded at any time during the event.
    • Market ingress, including waiting lines, and egress must be controlled to limit the number of people entering the market and to control the flow of foot traffic through the market.
    • The market must establish one-way foot traffic through the market.
    • Vendor tables or booths must be set far enough apart so that customers waiting in line or passing to another booth can maintain 6-foot distances from other customers.
    • There must be adequate signage or other means of communicating what is expected of customers once they enter the market.
  • The market must put adequate provisions in place to ensure personal hygiene, sanitation, and personal protection.  At a minimum, that must include the following:
    • Vendors, staff, and volunteers must be screened for COVID symptoms before each market, and may not remain at the market if they exhibit any COVID symptoms.   
    • Each vendor must have a temporary hand wash station or sanitizer to use throughout the event.
    • Face coverings are strongly recommended for vendors, staff, and volunteers, and recommended for customers. 
  • The market must put adequate provisions in place to ensure enhanced cleaning and sanitizing.  At a minimum, that must include frequent cleaning and sanitization of any frequently touched surfaces, including public restrooms used by vendors, staff, volunteers, and customers. 


Personal Care Services

Additional requirements for personal care services:

  • Before reopening, personal care businesses must complete a Personal Care Service Plan for their business that shows how they will meet the minimum requirements and have it available upon request by the Missoula City-County Health Department.  The plan must cover:
    • employee and client health screening and exclusion,
    • use of personal protective clothing and equipment,
    • reducing capacity and maintaining 6’ physical distance between unassociated clients and staff, and
    • the facility’s enhanced cleaning and sanitizing plan. 
  • Employees must be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 pre-shift and clients must be screened before they are served.
  • Employees must wear cloth face coverings or masks when providing services.
  • Clients must wear cloth face coverings or masks, except when receiving services that make a face covering or mask impossible.
  • The waiting area must be limited to 75% capacity with six-foot distancing between clients.
  • Employees must wash hands between each client.
  • Employees providing services where their forearms may touch the client, may not wear sleeves that extend past the elbow, and handwashing between clients must include up to the elbow.
  • Workstations, client chairs, tools, and instruments used for personal care services must be disinfected between clients. 
  • An enhanced cleaning plan for the entire facility must be devised and implemented.
  • Stylist stations and client chairs must be arranged in a manner that provides at least 6’ of physical distance between other people in the establishment. The minimum distance of 6’ is between people, not seats or stations. The placement of stations and chairs must accommodate movement of employees and clients through the establishment in a way that maintains at least 6’ separation. 



Additional requirements for gyms

  • Only registered members can use the facility, no day passes, or walk-in. 
  • Maximum Occupancy limited to 75% of normal operating capacity.
  • The facility must have a dedicated staff available during operating hours to wipe down frequently touched areas on a regular basis and monitor gyms zones to ensure that users are wiping down equipment properly. 
  • Train workers on symptom awareness and proper hand washing techniques. 
  • Signage must be posted with the following or substantially similar wording:
    • “Patrons with fever, shortness of breath, a cough, or other COVID-29 symptoms must
      refrain from using the gym”
    • Note that current CDC guidelines also include chills or repeated shaking with chills, new
      loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and unexplained muscle pain as
      possible symptoms of COVID-19
  • Hand sanitizer must be made available at the front desk and at stations throughout the workout area.  
  • Approved sanitizer for cleaning equipment after use must be provided at stations throughout the workout areas along with disposable towels. Reusable towels shall not be used to clean equipment. 
  • Post signs throughout the workout area reminding patrons to wipe equipment after each use. 
  • Six-foot distance should be maintained between equipment. Cardio studios should limit guests to every other piece of equipment to achieve this. 
  • Guests using free weights shall maintain six feet of separation except when a spotter is necessary. In this instance, workout groups shall be limited to two people. 
  • Sitting areas must be closed for use. 
  • Food vendors must follow applicable COVID-19 procedures for restaurants and retail food service. Vendors should be encouraged to use single-service items whenever possible, especially for condiments and similar foods.    
  • Social distancing must be maintained in dressing rooms and other common areas. No congregating in these areas may be allowed. 
  • After closing, establishments must clean using an EPA approved disinfectant. Twenty-four-hour establishments must close from 11:30 pm to 12 am so that proper disinfection can happen.
  • Frequently touched surfaces must be cleaned and sanitized regularly throughout the day and disinfected each night after closing. 
  • Personal training sessions may be offered with strict adherence to social distancing guidelines and masks are encouraged to be used by the trainer and trainee. 
  • Indoor group fitness classes can operate at 75 percent capacity and must adhere to strict physical distancing and frequent sanitation protocols


Pools At Gyms

Additional requirements for pools at gyms: 

  • Only registered members can use the facility, no day passes or walk-ins
  • Train workers on symptom awareness and proper hand washing procedures
  • Pool classes may continue; if:

    • All social distancing requirements must be observed during class; and
    • Any equipment used can be easily cleaned and disinfected between users.
  • Youth swim lessons may be offered in-line with previous guidance for Phase 1, which includes youth activities should avoid gathering in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • Front desk/gate attendant tracks occupancy, incoming and outgoing to ensure maximum occupancy does not exceed 75% capacity of normal bather load;
  • Signage must be posted with the following or substantially similar wording.
  • “Members with fever, shortness of breath, a cough, or other COVID-19 symptoms must refrain from using this facility.”
  • Signs shall be positioned for effective visual observation by members, such as on the entryway door
  • No congregating in waiting areas, patrons should wait in an appropriately spaced line or way that observes social distancing
  • Signage must be posted on the locker room door with the following or substantially similar wording, “Observe social distancing while using this facility. No loitering in common areas.”
  • Social distancing should be applied in all common areas
  • 6-foot spacing between un-associated members (i.e. not family members) in the pool.
  • 6-foot spacing between groups of no more than 50 (i.e. family groups and unrelated individuals must maintain 6-foot separation) in the pool.
  • Space pool deck tables and chairs to facilitate a 6-foot distance. 


Movie Theaters & Museums

Additional requirements for movie theaters and museums

  • The maximum number of attendees is 75 percent of normal capacity while maintaining 6 feet between non-family member groups. 
  • Signage must be posted with the following or substantially similar wording:
    • “Patrons with fever, shortness of breath, a cough, or other COVID-19 symptoms must refrain from using this facility.”
    • Signs shall be positioned for effective visual observation by patrons, such as on the entryway door.
  • Increase cleaning and sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces, including door handles, chairs, and tables.
  • Keep social distancing of at least 6 feet between non-family member groups or immediate party. 
  • Food vendors must follow applicable COVID-19 procedures for restaurants and retail foodservice. Vendors should be encouraged to use single-service items whenever possible, especially for condiments and similar foods.   
  •  Provide hand sanitizer or handwashing stations throughout the venue whenever possible.
  • Increase the cleaning and sanitizing of restrooms to no less than every two hours whenever possible. 
  • Provide clear plastic shielding between workers and attendees whenever possible, such as event cashiers and food vendors. 
  • If possible do not use tables. Tables should be covered with single-use material and discarded between users, showings, performances, or every two hours, whichever provides maximum spread protection. 
  • Train workers on COVID-19 symptom awareness and proper handwashing procedures.
  • Increase the cleaning time period between events, performances, and showings. Ensure that commonly touched surfaces such as armrests and railings are cleaned frequently.
  •  Ushers should monitor and enforce social distancing practices in theaters and encourage additional distance between guests as appropriate.

      • Ushers should limit the number of people in lines to no less than 6 feet between families or immediate party.
  • Gift shops should limit entry to 75% capacity and clean commonly touched surfaces frequently.


MCCHD guidance documents and resources for businesses  

On top of these requirements, the governor’s directive provides these recommendations for businesses:

  • Continue to encourage telework whenever possible and feasible with business operations. 
  • When telework is not feasible, employers are encouraged to accommodate alternative work schedules such as shift work and staggered scheduling in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
  • Close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact or enforce strict social distancing protocols.
  • Minimize non-essential business travel.
  • Make special accommodations for members of a vulnerable population or those with vulnerable household members. 


How customers can support businesses while protecting themselves and others.

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Customers have a responsibility to protect employees and other patrons. Respect and abide by the social distancing measures put in place by the business you are visiting. Wear a cloth face covering, wash your hands often, know the symptoms of COVID-19 and do not enter businesses if you are symptomatic. 

Please understand that the changes businesses are implementing are there to keep everyone as healthy as possible so we can continue operating in the new normal and move forward with reopening.  Some businesses may require you to use a cloth face covering. This may feel inconvenient, but it is an important measure to keep employees safe. While you may spend minutes inside and see few people, employees are there all day and are exposed to many people throughout their shift.  When you wear a cloth face covering and abide by physical distance markers, you are helping keep those employees healthy and safe.

Also, some businesses may require you to wait for service or available tables in your vehicle. This, again, is to protect you and their employees.

Take advantage of take-out, online ordering, curbside delivery, and other options that limit the time you spend in close quarters with non-household members.