Covid Update for Montana
September 29, 2021
COVID has been one of the most divisive subjects in our community. It has divided close friends and family members. COVID, the use of masks and vaccines, has separated our community into two camps. That is why I struggled to tell the story again; however, there is information that we need to consider as a community family before we continue to go forward with our health.
As of Monday, September 27, 20 active cases in Chouteau County have been reported. We also know there are some people with COVID-related symptoms that were not diagnosed. According to Montana, the cases in our state are 98% Delta, a new variant of COVID.
There are 4,903 residences in Chouteau County, with only 1,682 fully immunized. That means only 34 % of the residents are fully vaccinated, 66% are not immunized.
Pfizer has been approved for a booster shot, but the Moderna vaccine will be approved shortly. The Big Sandy Pharmacy is compiling a list of those who would like the booster shot, with high risk individuals able to receive it immediately.
Big Sandy students 12 years old or older are eligible to receive the first round of vaccination.
We knew COVID would change. There are now nine variants of COVID-19 in the world. Two of those variants are found in Montana; Mu and Delta variants. Vaccines should help with the COVID symptoms, including saving your life.
COVID was first discovered 50 years ago, and the disease has been studied all those years. On top of that, the vaccine is given using a new approach called mRNA. Many people are concerned about the fact that the vaccines are being offered through this new medium, however, mRNA has been studied and developed over the last 20 years. It isn’t exactly new.
As we approach this fall season, use common sense, wash your hands, cover your mouth, stay home when you are sick. Try to practice social distancing in indoor public places. Whether you believe in masks or not, there was only one case of the flu in Chouteau County last year.
In the discussion of this issue, there are two approaches. One is the importance of personal liberty, and the other is the welfare of the whole. We appear to align ourselves with one or the other. Some believe in the vaccine, and others believe in strengthening our own immune systems by natural means. These two approaches do not need to be exclusive of the other.
Making the discussion of COVID even more interesting is the recent approval of House Bill 702, which I reprint here at the end of this article. It raises more questions than it answers. Can a private business owner require masks, can schools require other immunizations long considered necessary going forward? It also strips the public health department of power as they can only make recommendations.
The following is House Bill 702. AN ACT PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION BASED ON A PERSON’S VACCINATION STATUS OR POSSESSION OF AN IMMUNITY PASSPORT; PROVIDING AN EXCEPTION AND AN EXEMPTION; PROVIDING AN APPROPRIATION; AND PROVIDING EFFECTIVE DATES.
WHEREAS, as stated in section 50-16-502, MCA, the Legislature finds that “health care information is personal and sensitive information that if improperly used or released may do significant harm to a patient’s interests in privacy and health care or other interests”; and
WHEREAS, the Montana Supreme Court in State v. Nelson, 283 Mont. 231, 941 P.2d 441 (1997), concluded that “medical records fall within the zone of privacy protected by Article II, section 10, of the Montana Constitution” and “are quintessentially private and deserve the utmost constitutional protection”.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE
OF THE STATE OF MONTANA:
Section 1. Discrimination based on vaccination status or possession of immunity passport prohibited -- definitions. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), it is an unlawful discriminatory practice for:
(a) a person or a governmental entity to refuse, withhold from, or deny to a person any local or state services, goods, facilities, advantages, privileges, licensing, educational opportunities, health care access, or employment opportunities based on the person’s vaccination status or whether the person has an immunity passport;
(b) an employer to refuse employment to a person, to bar a person from employment, or to discriminate against a person in compensation or in a term, condition, or privilege of employment based on the person’s vaccination status or whether the person has an immunity passport; or
(c) a public accommodation to exclude, limit, segregate, refuse to serve, or otherwise discriminate against a person based on the person’s vaccination status or whether the person has an immunity passport.
(2) This section does not apply to vaccination requirements set forth for schools pursuant to Title 20, chapter 5, part 4, or day-care facilities pursuant to Title 52, chapter 2, part 7.
(3) (a) A person, governmental entity, or an employer does not unlawfully discriminate under this section if they recommend that an employee receive a vaccine.
(b) A health care facility, as defined in 50-5-101, does not unlawfully discriminate under this section if it complies with both of the following:
(i) asks an employee to volunteer the employee’s vaccination or immunization status for the purpose of determining whether the health care facility should implement reasonable accommodation measures to protect the safety and health of employees, patients, visitors, and other persons from communicable diseases. A health care facility may consider an employee to be nonvaccinated or nonimmune if the employee declines to provide the employee’s vaccination or immunization status to the health care facility for purposes of determining whether reasonable accommodation measures should be implemented.
(ii) implements reasonable accommodation measures for employees, patients, visitors, and other persons who are not vaccinated or not immune to protect the safety and health of employees, patients, visitors, and other persons from communicable diseases.
(4) An individual may not be required to receive any vaccine whose use is allowed under an emergency use authorization or any vaccine undergoing safety trials.
(5) As used in this section, the following definitions apply:
(a) “Immunity passport” means a document, digital record, or software application indicating that a person is immune to a disease, either through vaccination or infection and recovery.
(b) “Vaccination status” means an indication of whether a person has received one or more doses of a vaccine.
Section 2. Exemption. A licensed nursing home, long-term care facility, or assisted living facility is exempt from compliance with [section 1] during any period of time that compliance with [section 1] would result in a violation of regulations or guidance issued by the centers for medicare and Medicaid services or the centers for disease control and prevention.
Section 3. Appropriation. There is appropriated $200 from the general fund to the department of labor and industry for the biennium beginning July 1, 2021, for the purposes of:
(1) notifying local boards of health of the requirements of [section 1] and requiring local boards of health to prominently display notice of the requirements of [section 1] on the home page of their website, if available, for at least 6 months after [the effective date of this act]; and
(2) requiring the department of public health and human services to prominently display notice of the requirements of [section 1] on the home page of the department’s website for at least 6 months after [the effective date of this act].
Section 4. Codification instruction. [Sections 1 and 2] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 49, chapter 2, part 3, and the provisions of Title 49, chapter 2, part 3, apply to [sections 1 and 2].
Section 5. Severability. If a part of [this act] is invalid, all valid parts that are severable from the invalid part remain in effect. If a part of [this act] is invalid in one or more of its applications, the part remains in effect in all valid applications that are severable from the invalid applications.
Section 6. Effective date. (1) Except as provided