HELENA, Mont. — The number of new coronavirus cases among residents of Montana’s most populous county is straining the health care system, the Yellowstone County health officer said Monday. He warned residents that he will put more restrictions in place on Nov. 2 if the infection rate continues to rise.

The proposed new restrictions could limit gatherings to no more than 25 people, regardless of the ability to socially distance; and set 25% capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants and churches, health officer John Felton said. Any business that sells alcohol would have to close by 10 p.m. Schools would not be affected by the order.

“This health order need not take effect if enough people take action,” he said during a news conference in Billings. “If we consistently wear masks, watch our distance, stay 6 feet away, avoid group gatherings, wash our hands, and stay home when we are ill, we can reduce the number of new infections significantly over the next three weeks and stave off the health officer order.”

He strongly encouraged people to limit the duration of close interaction, within 6 feet (2 meters) or less, to less than 10 minutes and with fewer than six people per week.

Felton’s announcement came just days after Gov. Steve Bullock urged counties with larger outbreaks to consider stricter measures, such as shutting down bars and other gathering places.

The new restrictions wouldn’t be imposed until the end of the month to allow time to see if people’s efforts help reduce case growth.

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