MISSOULA, Mont. — Montana's churches will be allowed to hold services on Sunday and some businesses can re-open Monday under Gov. Steve Bullock's plan to ease coronavirus restrictions.
Restaurants, bars and casinos can reopen on May 4 with reduced capacity and an 11:30 p.m. closure time.
Schools have the option to return to in-classroom instruction on May 7, but districts can choose to continue distance learning.
People over age 65 or with underlying health conditions are asked to continue to stay at home.
The Montana Hospital Association is lifting its March 26 recommendation that hospitals cancel elective procedures as long as they have adequate protective equipment.
The following release was sent out by the Office of the Governor:
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 industries.
“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 Commerce, said.
“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 Montanans,” 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 our economy,” Rich Rasmussen, President and CEO of the Montana Hospital Association, said.
“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 us,” 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 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.
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 following guidelines for reopening Montana were sent out by the Office of the Governor Steve Bullock, below the guidelines is the full document for reopening the Big Sky :
CLEANING AND SANITATION:
Frequent disinfecting of door handles, desks and other common spaces.
Require handwashing in regular intervals.
Keep libraries, gyms, and playgrounds off limits unless they can be sanitized between groups.
Provide hand sanitizer.
Implement temperature checks and / or symptom screening when practical.
Require anyone (students or staff) with COVID 19 symptoms to stay home.
LIMIT CLASS SIZES
Consider breaking larger classes into smaller groups.
Students may alternate school days or attend for half days.
MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCE
Consider use of face coverings by all staff and students
Keep students with the same group and in the same classroom, with teachers rotating when practical.
Consider students eating lunch in the classroom to help limit mixing of students.
Cancel extracurricular activities.
Prevent any non school staff, including parents, from entering school buildings.
Consider reducing bus loads to allow for one student per seat.
Provide a live stream of graduation
Consider limiting spectator attendance
For larger schools, consider grouping graduates or providing multiple ceremonies
Follow social distancing between families
For students, teachers, and staff in an at risk group:
Schools that reopen will need to take into consideration that some teachers and staff will fall into the at risk category because of their age or other health risks. These individuals should have additional accommodations including: teaching classes remotely, utilizing a larger classroom where social distancing can be maintained, or given an option not to return until the risks are reduced.
Students who are high risk or who have family members who are high risk should not be penalized for failing to attend and should continue to receive remote support.
Accommodations should also be extended to students and staff who are required to quarantine due to exposure or potential exposure.
CONFIRMED or SUSPECTED case of COVID 19
Collaborate with public health to ensure each school has a plan for reporting, contact tracing and both short term or extended closures in the case of a positive COVID case related to the school or community.
Utilize CDC guidelines https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019 ncov/community/schools childcare/guidance for schools.html
PHASE ONE: ALL SETTINGS
Health assessments must be conducted for all employees at the beginning of each shift.
In establishments where customers wait in a line, non household customers should remain physically distanced.
Waiting areas where adequate physical distancing cannot be maintained must be closed.
Customers should be encouraged to call for a reservation or an appointment, or establishments should use an online wait listing application.
Physical distancing of 6 feet must be maintained between non congregate customers, this may require:
A reduction in capacity;
A reduction of seating in service and waiting areas;
Management of waiting areas and waiting lines; or
Systems that reduce the amount of contact time between customers and staff.
PHASE TWO: ALL SETTINGS
Non congregate group size has increased from 10 people to 50 people.
All other provisions remain the same as Phase One for general business operations.
PHASE THREE: ALL SETTINGS
Return to normal operations.
A specific cleaning plan must be implemented, and employees must be trained in proper sanitation practices. Materials will be available on the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) food and consumer services website.
All surfaces occupied must be cleaned between customers, including tables, chairs, booths, and highchairs.
Table items including, condiments, menus, napkins, and décor, should be removed from the table unless they can be adequately cleaned between customers.
Menus must be cleaned between customers.
Growlers and refillable or reusable containers must be cleaned prior to being refilled.
Gaming machines must be adequately cleaned between customers.
PHASE ONE: RESTAURANTS
Capacity must be limited to 50% of normal operating capacity to allow for adequate group spacing.
Tables must be limited to six people per table.
Establishments must provide for 6 feet of physical distancing between groups and or tables by:
Increasing table spacing, removing tables, or marking tables as closed;
Providing for a physical barrier between tables; or
Back to back booth seating provides adequate separation.
In house dining for quick service restaurants should remain closed, if all guidelines can’t be met, including the cleaning of every table between customers.
Sitting or standing at bars or counters is not allowed.
In bars, drinks and food must be served to customers at a table.
Self service buffets must be closed.
Drink refills are not allowed.
Self service cups, straws and lids should be behind a counter and handed to customers
Self service condiments should be eliminated.
Gaming machines that are operational must be separated by 7 foot center to center. Machines must be placed out of service if adequate spacing cannot be assured.
PHASE TWO: RESTAURANTS
Capacity may be increased to 75% of normal operating capacity.
Tables must be limited to 10 people per table.
Establishments must continue provide for physical distancing between groups and or tables but may increase capacity.
In house dining for quick service restaurants should remain closed if all guidelines can’t be met, including the cleaning of every table between customers.
PHASE THREE: RESTAURANTS
Continue to practice social distancing when practical.
Establishments should begin to resume normal occupancy while continuing to follow the guidelines for all facilities.
PHASE ONE AND TWO: RECREATION GUIDELINES
Public lands, fishing access sites, and parks are encouraged to continue to provide outdoor recreation opportunities for local and regional users provided that users can adhere to strict social distancing guidelines and facilities follow frequent sanitizing protocols. Areas that cannot practicably implement social distancing requirements or sanitation needs will remain closed. Limited campground offerings, group use facilities and playgrounds, may be opened at the discretion of local and state managers . Local, state and federal officials are strongly encouraged to coordinate on all reopening decisions. Guides and outfitters may offer services consistent with any ongoing quarantine travel restrictions provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines and sanitation protocols. Visitors should check the status of any closures and restrictions before traveling.
PHASE THREE: RECREATION GUIDELINES
Campground, group use facilities, playgrounds and visitor centers are fully open.
PHASE ONE: PERSONAL CARE (SALONS, MASSAGE, BODY ART, ETC.)
Operations that require close personal contact for an extended period result in exposing staff and customers to greater level s of risk. These situations require additional safety and health precautions.
Screen customers prior to appointment for symptoms of fever, shortness of breath or a cough. Customers that have any of these symptoms must be rescheduled.
Utilize a face mask for staff and for customers when practical.
Stylist / artist / service provider and customer would be a “station” that would be 6 feet away from other “stations”.
Provide for 6 feet of physical distancing between stations, this may require:
A reduction in capacity;
Increasing spacing, removing stations, or marking stations as closed;
Providing for a physical barrier between stations;
A reduction of seating in service and waiting areas; or
Systems that reduce the amount of contact time between customers and staff.
PHASE TWO: PERSONAL CARE (SALONS, MASSAGE, BODY ART)
Establishments should continue provide for physical distancing between stations.
PHASE THREE: PERSONAL CARE (SALONS, MASSAGE, BODY ART)
Continue to practice physical distancing when practical.
Establishments may resume normal occupancy while continuing to follow the guidelines for all facilities.