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The Jefferson County Health Board has upped the cap on the number of people who can attend events at one time in the county, with a target of 150 by May.

The Board voted March 2 to increase the cap to 50 in March, effective March 5, and then to 100 in April. In May, the Board is shooting for a cap of 150, contingent on the COVID-19 case numbers. 

Beginning March 5, events with 50 or more people will still need to submit a health plan through the Public Health Department, according to Health Officer Sandy Sacry. 

The Board had previously been following the state mandate, which capped events at 25, and was enacted by former Gov. Steve Bullock. 

Once Gov. Greg Gianforte took office, he began to dismantle many of the former restrictions, including the state-wide mask mandate. 

Gianforte’s most recent directive calls for public gatherings or events to be managed in a way that accommodates the Center for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing guidelines. 

However, in Montana, a health board or health officer can enact directives that are stricter than those issued by the state, but not less so. 

The increased event numbers were based on a recommendation by Sacry.

Alison Richardson, who was speaking on behalf of the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce, said this was a step in the right direction. 

Public Health Supervisor Pam Hanna stressed that her department’s ability to focus on vaccinations is based on low case numbers, as it frees up staff from having to do contact tracing and monitor COVID-19 cases. 

If those case counts change, then the focus will have to change, Hanna said, adding that she would like the health department’s capacity to be figured into the equation when it comes to setting future event caps. 

As of March 3, there were 16 active cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County, according to the Health Department. 

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