With the first cases of COVID-19 emerging in Teton County, organizations and businesses are adjusting their policies.
The Choteau Chamber of Commerce board voted July 1 to cancel the Fourth of July parade. Board President Steve Dogiakos said the decision was made after considering several factors, including the number of new cases in Choteau, an unknown level of possible exposure, high levels of contact between groups and the potential risk of large out-of-town crowds coming to watch or participate in the parade.
“Great Falls canceled their parade, and we were getting a lot of inquiries from people asking if they could come down and participate in the parade or come and watch it,” he explained.
Normally, the Choteau parade draws 30 to 40 entrants. Several organizations had already contacted the board saying they would not be participating this year. “The number was dropping fast,” Dogiakos said.
The Chamber of Commerce board is made up of Dogiakos, Charley Yeager (as vice president), Kayla Breen, Mandy Wick, Kyra Bouma, Annie Olson, Jere Long and Tom Frownfelder as secretary/treasurer. The vote to cancel the parade was done via an anonymous online form and was decided, 3-2.
“We definitely considered the impacts of not having the parade on our business community. It was a hard thing for all of us to do. We will start planning for our 2021 celebration in our August meeting,” Dogiakos said.
Those who have already prepared parade entries are encouraged to share photos of their entries with the Choteau Acantha and the Choteau Yardsale and Information Facebook page.
On July 2, Choteau American Legion Post 6 Commander Jerry Collins announced that the Legion rodeo committee decided to cancel their meet and greet on the rodeo grounds, scheduled for the next night, July 3.
The committee already had prior approval from the Teton County Board of Health to go ahead with the mixer, following a set health and sanitation plan. Plans changed, however, with the first cases in Teton County appearing.
“With the recent uptick of cases, both here and nationally, and the possibility that people may have COVID-19 and come here without being tested, It would’ve been a big risk,” Collins said. “To get the funds we would need after the rodeo was canceled, it would be too much of a hassle for us and too much of a risk for the community.”
The rodeo committee also had difficulty scheduling a live band to play at the event. “We actually had to contract with three different bands to get this,” Collins said.
The first band canceled because they figured all the other Choteau Independence Day activities would be canceled, as well. The second band had members who were self-quarantining. Collins made arrangements with the third band option, from Great Falls, on July 1 before canceling the meet and greet.
“Being a veterans’ organization, this is very hard for us. Between this and veteran’s day, these are very patriotic celebrations. It’s disappointing that we can’t do anything,” Collins said.
The American Legion bar will remain open for drink sales on July 3 and 4, with no special events.
In the business sector, owners of shops, salons and clinics are updating their COVID-19 policies.
The Edge Salon/Spa/Wellness posted on their Facebook page that staff member Cody Marney was “in direct contact with a positive case and will be in quarantine until July 11” while staff member Kate Mattingly-Lohman “had potential secondary exposure and is not required to quarantine.”
Both Marney and Mattingly-Lohman were tested on July 2, and expect to have the results in a couple days. While Marney will continue to quarantine until July 11, Mattingly-Lohman plans to be in the salon the week after the holiday weekend, assuming her test comes back negative.
Heather Hodgskiss, who owns Pivot Physical therapy in Choteau, has tested negative for the viral disease, though she has family members that are positive and under quarantine. Hodgskiss said she will have a second test in the future, and if that comes back negative as well, she hopes to resume seeing patients soon. Until then, former Pivot employee Holly Hamilton will be seeing patients on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additionally, Hodgskiss has arranged for a backup physical therapist from Conrad to help fill in on Thursdays and Fridays.
Hodgskiss’s secretary is also awaiting test results before coming back to work.
The health and sanitation policies at the clinic are remaining largely unchanged. Elderly and immuno-compromised people are asked not to come in unless they are a patient. Staff members will be wearing masks, and patients are encouraged to do so as well. Patients will also be asked to wash their hands upon entering and exiting the clinic. In the gym, disinfecting wipes and bleach solutions are used to clean the equipment between uses, as usual. There are hand sanitizing stations throughout the building.
Mickey Hodgskiss, who is Heather’s mother-in-law, closed her Country Hallmark store in Choteau on July 1 and 2. “I was tested, just to be safe, and should get the results soon,” she said. She said she expected to have results by the end of the day on July 2. She is tentatively planning on reopening the shop on July 3, assuming her test is negative.
All of this information is subject to change as the health situation progresses. Shoppers and diners at local restaurants are encouraged to continue following safe practices to prevent the spread of disease.