Montana moving to Phase 2 reopening on June 1

Beginning June 1, Montana will enter Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced the shift to Phase 2 during a press briefing on May 19.

Bullock lifted the stay home directive on April 26 and the state entered Phase 1 of his reopening plan.

Since then, there have been 22 new COVID-19 cases statewide, Bullock said.

Cascade County has had 17 confirmed positive cases. Of those, two died and as of May 14, only one of those cases was still active, according to the Cascade County City-County Health Department.

The last case in Cascade County was confirmed May 11. The 16th positive case was confirmed May 4 and the 15th case was on April 27.

[Bullock’s full directive on Phase 2 is here]

Bullock said the quick aggressive action taken in Montana with the stay home and other directives “put us in a better position.”

Montana still has the lowest number of positive cases and hospitalizations per capita, Bullock said.

17th case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Cascade County

The virus has been “contained in Montana at this time,” Bullock said, but “we must recognize that the virus is still with us and will be for the foreseeable future.”

Bullock said there will likely be more positive tests and the state can’t prevent all cases, but there are preventative measures to allow Montanans “to have some sense of a normal life while still preventing major outbreaks or overwhelming our state’s healthcare system.”

Bullock said the state is continuing to increase the state’s ability to respond with increased testing capacity and contact tracing capabilities.

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There are still restrictions under Phase 2, including that vulnerable populations should continue to stay home and visitation at nursing homes remains suspended other than certain situations.

Gatherings can be increased to 50 people or less as long as appropriate distancing can be provided.

Restaurants and bars continue with the same operations but can increase to 75 percent capacity and tables can have a maximum of 10 people.

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Seating at the bars is still prohibited and the operational hours remain the same as Phase 1, Bullock’s office told The Electric.

Pools, gyms, etc. can also go to 75 percent capacity if social distancing and cleaning guidelines can be met. Bowling alleys and other places of assembly can operate with social distancing.

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The mandatory 14-day quarantine for inbound travelers for non-work reasons will be lifted June 1, Bullock said.

As Montana enters the summer months, he said there are more effective mitigation strategies to handle increased visitation.

He’s in discussions with leadership at Yellowstone and Glacier national parks and still targeting a June 1 opening for the Montana gates at Yellowstone.

The National Guard will continue conducting health screenings at points of entry and over the next two weeks, the state will be supporting destination communities to increase their ability to respond to increased visitation and mitigate the risks of COVID-19 spread.

Bullock said the state is working with those communities, as well as other agencies including the Department of Corrections, for surveillance testing.

He said that many tribal nations still have more restrictive guidelines in place and asked visitors and residents alike to respect those restrictions.

Local governments can implement more restrictive measures based on local conditions but they cannot be less restrictive than the state guidance.

Bullock said Montanans still need to be cautious and “I know that no one wants to find out that they were the one who spread the virus to others.”