GREAT FALLS — Studio Montage Salon & Spa closed on Wednesday after announcing that two of their employees had tested positive for COVID-19.

Salon owner DeeAnna Corn explained the sequence of events which led to the employees being tested.

“I think that there were maybe three or four that spent time together at a Fourth of July party and then two others spent the weekend going somewhere for the Fourth of July,” Corn said.

After that, one employee showed symptoms and was tested, which prompted Corn to test all of her employees who were in close contact during the holiday weekend. To the salon owner’s surprise, the two positive results originated from employees who appeared to have minimal symptoms.

“What actually started the ball rolling were two people who have come back with negative tests and the two people that tested positive legitimately thought they had allergies with all of the cotton in the air the last few weeks,” Corn said.

Corn is uncertain whether the employees contracted COVID-19 inside or outside the workplace. “I don’t think we got it from a client. I think one or both of them got it from an outside environment but as far as whether or not they gave it to each other or got it separate, I’m not certain.”

Cascade City-County Health Department health officer Trisha Gardner said while this breakout occurred among coworkers, gatherings outside the workplace are more concerning than those inside.

“I honestly look at big social gatherings outside of the workplace as more of a concern than going in to work,” Gardner said, “Employers and places of business are putting into place some mitigation strategies to reduce the risk. what we’re seeing is it’s a lot of that outside socialization where some of those precautions aren’t being put into place and that’s really where we’re seeing some of the spread happen.”

However, she commends Studio Montage for taking extra steps to guarantee their employees and patrons safety, since closing isn’t required of businesses that fall victim to COVID-19.

“It is advised that they take the time – at least a day and do a really nice deep clean – but after that they would be eligible to reopen their doors and get business going again,”

Gardner added that the public should feel safe returning to a place where a case has broken out, after they’ve taken steps to address the outbreak. “I think knowing that this business has taken those extra steps and is being even more cautious, that gives me even further comfort that they’re going to continue with the practices that will make their business a safe place to patronize,” Gardner said.

While closing their doors wasn’t a technical requirement, Corn felt it was an ethical one, after CCHD informed her of another important prevention strategy.

“If you’ve had direct contact with the active case for more than 15 minutes within six feet. Even if both people are wearing a mask they’re considering it a live contact..so I couldn’t ethically know who had been around somebody for 15 minutes and it was just definitely not worth the chance of anyone else getting infected until we could understand how to better serve our guests, and our clients, and keep everyone safe,” Corn said.

With those precautions in mind, Corn said she plans to keep the doors closed until at least July 22nd, two weeks after their first confirmed case. Studio Montage is located at 118 Central Avenue; click here to visit the Facebook page for updates.


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