To help prevent the spread of the COVID 19 virus, the Missoula City County Health Department is taking the step of closing bars and limiting restaurant service.

Health Officer Ellen Leahy made the announcement at a press conference on Monday.

“The order is to close for one week starting Tuesday morning at 8 all bars, breweries and distillery tasting rooms, not the actual production itself, just the tasting rooms and casinos in Missoula County,” said Leahy. “All restaurants in Missoula County are also ordered closed under this order.”

Leahy said there will be some exceptions.

“The exceptions are those restaurants that can still operate a drive through take-out or delivery service, such as a walk-up ice cream stand,” she said. “Of course, exempted from that order are the types of food services such as cafeterias, such as schools, the university or local hospitals which are necessary to keep open.”

Leahy said the few voluntary closures were simply not reducing enough the possibility of spreading the COVID 19 virus.

“At first I was looking at voluntary closures, but I’m at a point right now where we have to press down on those cases,” she said. “So, it’s really not the number. Two cases itself is not the trigger, it could be two, one, three or six cases, it’s just that the presence of the virus is here, and we know that there are a lot of cases that can be associated with the one visible case.”

Leahy confirmed that the one week closure is a trial run.

“It could be extended, it could be modified and it could be extended and modified,” she said. “All of those things could happen.”

Food services that operate in a limited capacity need to follow the food service regulations and additional guidance from the health department.