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News & Press: Montana News

Governor announces gradual, phased reopening of state from COVID-19 restrictions

Wednesday, April 22, 2020  
Posted by: Joe Menden
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Gov. Steve Bullock on Wednesday announced a gradual and phased reopening of the state beginning on Sunday, April 26, for individuals and extending to businesses on Monday, April 27.

The governor said the plan to reopen gradually was based on the latest scientific evidence and data, and in consultation with public health experts, health care providers, business leaders, and emergency management professionals. The plan is detailed in a directive and accompanying appendix with guidelines for certain industries.

“There are very few states in the country that can say they have seen the number of positive cases decline over these past weeks. Montana can say that because, together, we have made that decline in cases possible,” Gov. Bullock said. “While there is reason for optimism, this is not a time for celebration. I am going to ask Montanans to continue to go to great lengths to protect one another, to continue looking out for our neighbors who need it the most, and to continue being vigilant in every step we take.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath issued a memo to the state's district courts and courts of limited jurisdiction shortly after the governor released his directive. The memo outlines practices the courts should implement at a minimum after May 4.

Gov. Bullock stressed that the plan to reopen relies on Montanans adhering to social distancing guidelines whenever possible and to continue to limit gatherings. Guidance remains in place for members of vulnerable groups to continue to shelter at home, though it is no longer mandatory. Additionally, visitation at nursing homes will continue to be suspended and older Montanans and those who are immunocompromised should continue to follow the stay-at-home directive.

“Our new normal is going to look different," Bullock said. "This virus isn’t gone from Montana. So as we turn to support our main street businesses and get more families back to work during this time – as we should – we must also be sure to continue looking out for those around us and protecting everyone around us. Once we begin to reopen, we want to be able to stay open. Our personal responsibility to protect those around us – particularly those most vulnerable – remains just as important as any time during this pandemic.”

The stay-at-home order will expire on April 26 for individuals and April 27 for businesses. Businesses can become operational on or after April 27 if they can adhere to requirements to limit capacity and maintain strict physical distancing. Employers are directed to develop policies to keep employees and customers safe including teleworking when possible, enforcing social distancing protocols, and other measures as provided in an appendix of reopening guidelines.

Places of worship can become operational on April 26 in a manner consistent with social distancing between people who are not members of the same household. Restaurants, bars, breweries, and distilleries can begin providing some in-establishment services beginning May 4.

Businesses where groups gather without the ability to social distance including movie theaters, gyms, and other places of assembly remain closed.

On May 7, all schools will have the option to return to in-classroom teaching delivery at the discretion of local school boards. The directive does not preclude school boards from declaring local emergencies to continue to receive all appropriate state funding to continue to provide remote learning.

Montana’s travel quarantine will remain in effect and out-of-state travelers and residents arriving from another state or country back to Montana for non-work-related purposes are required to quarantine for 14 days.

The directive does not prohibit more restrictive local ordinances, and encourages local officials to work regionally and make local adjustments as local needs demand.

The plan includes several phases and details the factors that will determine when it is appropriate to move to the second phase of reopening. This decision will be driven by conditions on the ground and the latest data. Governor Bullock and his task force will continue to monitor cases closely and carefully to analyze Montana’s work to contain the virus.

Read the directive and its appendix with reopening guidelines here.