Governor Steve Bullock
today announced a gradual and phased reopening of the state beginning Sunday
for individuals, and extending to businesses on Monday.
“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,”
Governor 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.”
The plan to reopen
gradually was is 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 Governor’s plan is
detailed in a Directive and accompanying Appendix with guidelines for certain
“The Montana business community appreciates the Governor’s
leadership over the course of the COVID19 pandemic. The Montana Chamber of
Commerce supports a phased approach to re-opening our economy, while still
maintaining health standards and containing the spread of COVID-19. Montana
businesses are capable of being flexible and partnering with our colleagues and
employees to address the challenges that this may pose, and are eager to open
our doors once again,”
Todd O’Hair, President/CEO of the Montana Chamber of
“Local public health continues to work closely with Governor
Bullock and our state partners to work towards a systematic reopening of
Montana that minimizes the risk of viral spread. We appreciate the partnerships
we have all across the state, which in no doubt, will continue to serve
Hillary Hanson, Public Health Officer at the Flathead
City-County Health Department, said.
“Montana and its hospitals moved swiftly and thoughtfully to
respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the results of this effort is demonstrated
by a lower incidence of the virus in Montana when compared to our neighboring
states. Our hospitals responded to this public health emergency and
remain prepared to serve our patients and communities and assist in restarting
Rich Rasmussen, President and CEO of the Montana Hospital
“Because of Montana’s aggressive approach of shutting
everything down early in the pandemic, we are in the fortuitous position of
having a very low viral burden in the state. With that being said, I feel
assured that a cautious, vigilant, and step wise approach to opening up our
healthcare, commerce, and education sectors could be attempted. Keep in
mind that for every two steps forward we might need to take a step back, but it
is in everyone’s best interest that we try,”
Dr. Marc Mentel, president of
the Montana Medical Association, said.
Montana’s plan to
reopen relies on Montanans to adhere 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. 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
Governor Bullock said. “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. Main street and retail 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
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
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.
Montana has aggressively managed the virus with a series of
actions including suspending nursing home visitation, closing schools, closing
higher risk businesses such as bars, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters, and
enacting a stay at home order. As a result, Montana has the lowest percentage
of positive cases per capita when compared to its population and the lowest
number of hospitalizations per capita in the nation.
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.
The Directive and its Appendix with reopening guidelines are posted online at covid19.mt.gov.