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Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton is walking back the 50% capacity limits ordered for churches earlier this week. Monday's announcement allowed for restaurants, bars, and casinos to operate at 75% capacity, but would have forced churches to operate at 50% capacity.

According to a Wednesday afternoon press release from Riverstone Health in Billings:

The amended Order permits houses of worship to exceed the 25-person limit on gatherings if the facility doesn’t exceed 75% of capacity and follows both physical distancing and masking requirements.

The original Order, issued on October 12, stated that houses of worship should limit gatherings to 50% of facility capacity. All other aspects of the Health Officer Order issued October 12 remain in effect through midnight on November 9.



Sometimes you have to just be able to laugh at some of this stuff...instead of calling themselves churches, should the places of worship targeted in the recent Yellowstone County Health order start calling themselves coffee bars, wine bars, or juice bars? That was what came to mind Tuesday morning when I was sharing the latest news with our listeners.

When it comes to restaurants, bars, and casinos, I get the sense that most of our listeners felt that Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton made the right call. Despite threatening a new round of increased COVID-19 restrictions, Felton kept the 75% capacity limit in place. As Q2's Mitch Lagge reports, Felton said he had planned to lower the capacity all the way down to 25%, but local business owners told him that would be the death of their business. So Felton made the right call and didn't increase the restrictions on these Yellowstone County business owners.

When I tell you this next bit of information though, you'll wonder if I'm sharing news from California rather than Montana. As a part of Monday's order, Felton is limiting capacity at places of worship to 50%. So the bottom line is that Yellowstone County is now placing more restrictions on churches than they are on casinos and bars.

Maybe these churches in Billings should now refer to themselves as something other than places of worship in order to stay open. The evangelicals can refer to their churches as coffee bars. Our Catholic and Lutheran friends can refer to their churches as wine bars (for communion Sunday). And I guess our LDS friends can call their churches juice bars...time to get creative folks.

Tim in Savage, Montana called in to the radio show to let us all know that his Lutheran Church will now be known as a Lutefisk bar, which likely will reduce his place of worship to 25% capacity as a result of the opposition to Lutefisk. I told him if he could convert the facility to a Lefse bar, I'm in.

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