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Lewis and Clark County lifts COVID emergency declaration

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Phase 1B COVID-19 Vaccine

Hundreds of people in Phase 1B lined up at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds on Jan. 19 for a COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

The Lewis and Clark County Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday morning that lifted its emergency declaration enacted March 13, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Whereas, the COVID-19 public health emergency ... continues to be present in the County and surrounding area but is no longer an imminent threat," the resolution states. The resolution goes on to say "the COVID-19 virus is now a vaccine preventable disease and can be adequately addressed with existing resources ... be it resolved by the Lewis and Clark County Board of County Commissioners that the public health emergency is hereby terminated..."

"We're moving forward. We have a system that can address and respond better. We have the vaccine at our disposal," County Commissioner and Chairman Andy Hunthausen said ahead of the vote, urging continued caution by the entire community. "It doesn't mean that it's done, it's gone and don't even think about this anymore. Those who are unvaccinated still pose a risk to their own health, their family's health and to the community's health."

Hunthausen said he hopes unvaccinated county residents will consider receiving the vaccine because "the facts are pretty strong: it's safe, effective and free."

"Because we rescind this declaration of emergency does not mean that there isn't some personal responsibility and work that people need to do and consider to make sure that this is behind us," he said.

Lewis and Clark County's Disaster and Emergency Coordinator Alexa Noruk told the county commissioners "there will be a push to remind people that, working backward from the first day of school, the deadline (for a child to be vaccinated in time for the start of the coming school year) is coming up. If you have a two-dose vaccine, you would need those five weeks leading up to the first day of school in order to be fully vaccinated."

Wednesday is that deadline.

July 21 is last day to have Helena-area students fully vaccinated before school

As of Tuesday, Lewis and Clark Public Health is reporting 31% of county residents ages 12 to 19 have been fully vaccinated, while the percentage of all eligible county residents remains at 56%.

The city of Helena lifted its local disaster emergency declaration by resolution July 12.

Gov. Greg Gianforte on June 30 announced he is lifting Montana's state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic, more than 15 months after it was imposed under his predecessor.

"We're getting back to normal," Gianforte said. "The reductions in infections, the reductions in hospitalizations says we're on the other side of this."

About 5,600 more county residents would need to get vaccinated to reach the long stated goal of a 70% vaccination rate, according to LCPH.

Lewis and Clark County Public Health Officer Drenda Niemann told the Independent Record July 13 that county cases of the virus are "trending nicely down," but that more residents need to get vaccinated, especially with the new school year approaching.

"When a person makes a decision to either get vaccinated or not, it's not a personal decision. It's a decision that affects our entire community," Niemann said. "If we want to end this pandemic, we need to get more people vaccinated."


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Local Government and Crime Reporter

Nolan Lister is a reporter at the Helena Independent Record with an emphasis on local government and crime.

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