Phased reopening to begin after April 24


Noting a sustained reduction in new COVID-19 cases, Governor Steve Bullock rolled-out a phased plan for reopening Montana on Wednesday afternoon. The strategy came on the heels of his Friday announcement – the expiration of his stay at home directive on April 24 would mean revived movement for the state’s economy. It was made clear in a released document that local authority would take precedence over any “Reopening The Big Sky” guidelines on the state level – to mitigate any new cases that surface.

In Phase 1, schools will be given the option to return to in-classroom teaching on May 7; Bars, restaurants breweries, distilleries and casinos can become operational again on or after May 4 (but with physical distancing and reduced capacity); main street and retail businesses may open again with reduced capacity on or after April 27; places of worship may regain operation on or after April 26, but with reduced capacity and “strict physical distancing protocols”; gyms, pools and hot tubs are to remain closed.

People are to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not allow for appropriate social distancing.

The timeline outlining steps for individuals as well as businesses and events is established with procedures and markers.

Some of those metrics taken into consideration were presented by President Donald Trump last week “and some of them are unique to Montana.”

Bullock discussed the primary markers: Sustained reduction of new cases for at least 14 days (due to the incubation period of the virus); hospitals can safety treat all patients – with COVID-19 and other conditions; a need to ensure testing capacity is in place to test all people with COVID-19 symptoms; the capacity for state and local health officials to conduct active monitoring of newly confirmed cases and their contacts and ramp up testing capacity. As noted on the federal level, he said this will be a gradual process “because once we begin to reopen we want to be able to stay open.” “We will do it in a way that’ll protect Montanans’ lives; the recovery of our economy. We will continue to do this the Montana way –based on the data and science on the ground here, not based on politics,” he said on Friday. “I know that this crisis is hurting Montana  but I also know that if we get this wrong, it’ll hurt us even more.”

The strategy includes “thoughtful planning in the event that we face any setbacks.”

Created under guidance provided by Montana National Guard General Matthew Quinn and based on military strategic planning principles, the plan includes input from public health experts, emergency responders, and local providers as well as business and industry leaders. Objectives were to “determine how we can open our state up while keeping people safe and avoiding a new outbreak or becoming the next hot spot in the region.”

“We’ve got to recognize our new normal is going to look a little bit different. The virus isn’t going away and we’re going to have to continue to adapt with how we live with it for the next while,” Bullock said.

He noted the Treasure State’s quick and aggressive measures to slow the spread have resulted in the flattening of the curve and kept first responders and hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

He noted that risk mitigation while “knowing the risk is still there” and an effort to keep the curve flattened and protect Montanans are at the core of his desire to reopen the state responsibly.

Bullock said that in times of crisis, Montanans “have always pulled together,” and that is how the populace has slowed the spread, protected workers on the frontlines and saved lives.

“We need to continue to keep working together, keep taking care of our neighbors and keep doing what’s best for Montana,” he said. Gallatin City-County Health Department officer Matt Kelley held a press conference directly after the governor’s on Friday.
He noted that while there have been encouraging signs locally and statewide, he wants to remain “very careful and very clear” that this remains a very serious pandemic. He seconded the governor’s request that residents continue to work together. Keep to the current path, he requested – honor sacrifices made by businesses and make social distancing measures count.

A follow-up story can be found on here:

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