Gallatin County health officer addresses tightened COVID-19 restrictions in other counties

Posted at 7:56 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 21:56:33-04

BOZEMAN — COVID-19 is still making headlines across the state, with the number of cases and deaths on the rise each day and hospitals in other parts of Montana becoming overburdened.

Governor Steve Bullock noted support for some counties, like Yellowstone County, which rolled back to Phase One-like restrictions this week.

With the number of cases going up, many people have been wondering when the time was going to become the time, when restrictions would return, with Yellowstone County as an example.

But talking with Matt Kelley, Gallatin City-County health officer, there’s still a lot to take into account when thinking about restrictions.

“We are really working hard to avoid restrictions where we don’t need to have them,” Kelley says.

Gallatin County is not Yellowstone County, something Kelley wants to make clear right off the bat.

To the west, the numbers in that county are much higher, breaking the threshold that Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton once said would be needed to roll the restrictions back a phase.

As the health officer here, Kelley says it’s a warning sign.

“What you are seeing in Yellowstone County, part of the situation in Yellowstone County is that their hospitals are extremely stressed,” Kelley says. “They don’t have the capacity that we currently have in Gallatin County. That affects us.”

At Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital, things are holding steady for now, according to Kelley.

“On Friday, we had right around 60 or 65 percent of our critical care beds being utilized,” Kelley says. “That’s a pretty decent number.”

As of right now, Kelley says COVID-19 is in the community in many different places -- and restrictions wouldn’t stop that now.

But as to the question — could we see further restrictions put in place in Gallatin County?

“I think we need to keep all tools on the table as we move into the winter,” Kelley answered. “I think we are going into a really difficult time.”

Kelley stressed the importance of wearing face coverings and following health department guidelines.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Kelley says. “Everybody is sick and tired of it. We need to keep the pressure on now if we are going to prevent more hospitalizations and more deaths.”