Public health departments in Montana have been assessing how to balance the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance related to vaccinated individuals with Montana’s recent legislation prohibiting discrimination based on vaccination status. This summer, the CDC updated quarantine guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, stating that those who are fully vaccinated need not quarantine if they remain symptom free. Instead, they should monitor symptoms and wear a mask when in public for 14 days or until receiving a negative test result. 

However, House Bill 702, approved by the Montana Legislature earlier this year and signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte, states that government agencies may not deny someone “advantages” or “privileges” because of their vaccination status.

Jefferson County Public Health counselled with our county attorney and concluded that having different quarantine rules for people who are not vaccinated would go against HB 702. Under the law, it would be necessary to quarantine everyone for the same amount of time. Quarantining fully vaccinated people, who are less likely to carry and spread the virus, would mean having workers out of work and students out of school. As a result, Jefferson County Health Department will issue a letter to close contacts asking them to follow public health recommendations as stated below.

If you are fully vaccinated (completing the Moderna or Pfizer 2-dose series or single dose of Johnson & Johnson), monitor for symptoms of illness and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days after last day of exposure. Testing is recommended three-to-five days after exposure and if you develop symptoms.  

If you are unvaccinated, quarantine for 10 days and continue to monitor symptoms for 14 days after exposure. Please obtain COVID-19 testing if you develop symptoms. 

If you develop the following symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, contact your primary care provider, local urgent care or local emergency room for further guidance.  

  • New loss of taste or smell.
  • Muscle or body aches.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Headache.
  • Cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Congestion or runny nose.

Isolation and quarantine are basic control measures in the prevention of communicable disease. Isolation is used to separate people infected with COVID-19 from those who are not infected. People isolate even if they do not have symptoms and regardless of their vaccination status until it is safe for them to be around others—in most cases, 10 days. People quarantine when they have been exposed to someone with the virus. A close contact is someone who has been within 6 feet of someone with the virus for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

Jefferson County is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. Jefferson County Health Department may not be able to contact all close contacts due to limited resources. We are concentrating our efforts on those who are household members and those who are at high risk of illness or transmission. If you know you have been exposed to somebody that is positive, please follow the quarantine instructions provided even if you do not receive a letter. We are relying on our community to do the right thing, because both isolation and quarantine are essential to slowing the spread and containing the virus. Stay well.

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