Changing guidelines: Why the pandemic's so difficult to pin down

MONTANA - From no masks, to masks required, to no masks if you're vaccinated, to masks for everyone once again, throughout the pandemic, guidance has changed depending on trends and infections. 

Let's start with where we've been with guidance and how we got to where we are today. 

According to the CDC, the first COVID-19 case arrived in the United States January 21, 2020. At that time, no additional precautions, like face masks, were recommended. 

Now, let's move through more key dates from the CDC, Governor's office, and Missoula City-County Health Department. 

Covid-19 Guidance Timeline:

  • March 16 - 20, 2020 - Restaurants, gyms, theatres, salons close
  • March 27, 2020 - Governor Bullock issues stay at home order
  • April 16, 2020 - Mask recommendations begin at county level across Montana
  • July 15, 2020 - Governor Bullock requires masks indoors
  • Dec. 7, 2020 - First phase of vaccines in Montana
  • Feb. 10, 2021 - Governor Gianforte signs new law protecting        businesses from COVID-19 related lawsuits
  • Feb. 12, 2021 - Governor Gianforte removes mask mandate
  • March 28, 2021 - Vaccines become widely available across MT
  • May 8, 2021 - Governor signs new law banning vaccine requirement
  • May 13, 2021 – CDC: vaccinated people can stop wearing masks
  • July 27, 2021 – CDC reverses and says EVERYONE should wear masks

As the pandemic continues, different guidelines have come and gone, so it's no wonder people are confused about what we should and shouldn't do. 

The real question is, why does it keep changing and what should we expect to see in the near future? 

"When we were first dealing with COVID-19, we didn't know a lot about it because it was a brand new virus," Cindy Farr, COVID-19 incident response commander at the Missoula City-County Health Department, said. "Over time there's been more and more studies that have been completed. There's been a lot more research going into it, and so, as that science changes, and as the virus changes, that means we have to change the way we respond to it and the CDC changes the guidance." 

Looking ahead, she said Montanans can expected updated guidance on booster shots and for cases to continue to spread as the delta variant is so contagious and more and more people will spend time indoors as the weather changes. 

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