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Health board looks to expand


The safety plan for the 4-H/FFA portion of the 2020 Sanders County Fair and a measure designed to allow the addition of two additional members to its board were two issues approved by unanimous consent at the Sanders County Board of Health (BOH) meeting in Thompson Falls on July 16.

Held at the courthouse, the meeting also included discussion about the recently enacted mask requirement from the governor’s COVID-19 order for Montana. Regarding Sanders County, the board discussed a contingency plan for keeping the courthouse open to the public and held a question and answer session with the public following the meeting.

The Sanders County BOH is currently made up of the three commissioners and two retired medical professionals. Commissioner Glen Magera indicated that he had checked the bylaws and found no reason why the board membership could not be expanded.

“I think it would be good to get some other people involved,” he said, “maybe some members of the public if they are interested and want to get involved.” Magera added that the positions could be advertised as normally done when asked how they would be filled.

Magera, Tony Cox and Carol Brooker are the three current commissioners, and Jack Lulack and Bob Gregg the medical professionals. All five were in attendance at Thursday’s meeting. Several other county officials, including the county nurse and sanitarian, and members of the public were also present.

Originally set as an agenda item, the mandatory mask portion of the meeting was tabled due to the governor’s directive and the fact that as a county with four or more active cases, Sanders County reached that benchmark prior to the meeting. The commissioners indicated that they would be ready to discuss the mask issue further in future meetings of the board.

Presenting the 4-H safety plan, which she said would feature a mixture of stay-in-place and show-and-go exhibiting formats, was MSU Sanders County Extension Agent Juli Thurston.

As explained in a July 16 Sanders County Ledger article, the 2020 fair is designed to meet all current Phase Two requirements, including proper social distancing, adequate placement of signage, numerous wash stations and the wearing of masks.

That extensive plan was made available to the board for review before the meeting and passed by board vote quickly. Thurston said the plan can still be fine-tuned, depending on the situation.

Thurston said that having more than a month to prepare (the fair is set for Sept. 3-6) could be of advantage. “We have some time compared to some of the other fairs around western Montana,” she said, “and feel like we can learn from what has happened and what will happen in those other events in the next few weeks.”

In one surprising development, Thurston said that she has learned that some auctions actually have brought in higher-than-usual final bids for some animals as a result of proxy and/or online bidding this year.

After the board discussed contingency planning for the staffing of the courthouse with the mask protocol now in place, the meeting was opened for questions and answers.

A few members of the public questioned the severity of the current COVID-19 pandemic and another brought up a Sanders County Fair parking issue during that comment period. One person indicated that she had a lot to say about the mask issue but would save it for later as the result of running out of time in the meeting.

Lulack responded a comment made about COVID-19 being little more than a cold virus.

“This is serious, this is a pandemic,” he said. “We need to all stay in the fight because this is not going to go away. It’s on everyone’s shoulders if we are going to beat this.”


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