Next phase of Montana's reopening plan begins June 1
This photo taken April 14, 2020, shows Army National Guard soldiers waiting to check Amtrak passengers as Shelby, Mont., struggles with three of the seven coronavirus deaths in Montana. From left, Sgt. Willie Nesmith, Spec. Trevor Dodson and Spec. Robert Swensen meet the eastbound Empire Builder. (Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP)
Daily Inter Lake | May 19, 2020 4:17 PM
Gov. Steve Bullock announced on Tuesday that Montana would move to phase two of the state’s reopening plan starting June 1.
Phase two of the governor’s plan, Reopening The Big Sky, will allow for further reopening of businesses and would allow groups of up to 50 to gather if appropriate physical distancing can be maintained.
Bullock said he is also lifting the mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors arriving from out-of-state. The Montana National Guard will continue to conduct screenings in airports and train depots.
Bullock said the state plans to assist Montana’s “destination communities” with certain protocols, such as surveillance testing of employees, enhanced contact tracing resources, and the ability to surge personal protective equipment to impacted health care systems.
How the state responded to the pandemic “has put us in many ways in a starkly better position than other states,” Bullock said in a Tuesday press call. He said Montana continues to have the lowest number of cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations per capita in the country.
“Montana has been an example for the rest of the nation in our response to this global pandemic. I have no doubt that we can continue to be that example, but only if Montanans, businesses, and visitors alike continue to take seriously the responsibility we all have in protecting others,” Bullock said.
Restaurants, bars, breweries and casinos can increase their capacity to 75% starting on June 1. Gyms and pools can also increase capacity to 75%, but only if they can maintain proper physical distancing.
In addition to churches, “other places of assembly can become operational under the group size restrictions and physical distancing guidelines in this phase,” the directive states.
Bullock said vulnerable individuals must continue to follow stay-at-home guidance, and visitation to nursing homes will continue to be suspended. Employers are encouraged to continue teleworking if possible.
Bullock also announced a target date of June 1 to open up Montana’s three gates into Yellowstone National Park. Wyoming opened its two gates into the park on Monday.
As for Glacier National Park, Bullock said, “We’re just beginning conversations about reopening” the park.
Meanwhile, the state is ramping up its testing capacity. The state lab conducted 3,496 tests last week – up 1,200 from the previous week – with a total of approximately 5,600 tests conducted statewide after including private lab tests.
Despite the additional tests, Montana has only had 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the month of May. Since the first case on March 11, Montana has confirmed 471 cases and 16 deaths related to the virus.
“The gains that we’ve had is because we’ve took this seriously,” Bullock said.
“I ask you to continue that same degree of vigilance. It really is on all of us and all of us working together.”
Montana’s gradual and phased plan to reopen began on April 26 with Phase One which allowed schools, places of worship, main street and retail businesses, and restaurants, breweries, and bars to reopen under social distancing guidelines.
For more information on COVID-19 in Montana and the state government’s response, visit covid19.mt.gov.
Reporter Colin Gaiser may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org