Photo by Jana Bounds

Phased reopening to begin after April 24

Gov. Bullock discusses steps to reopen the economy while protecting Montanans

Today, Montanans received an answer to one of their most prevalent questions: When will things begin to feel slightly normal again? 

Montana will move forward with a phased reopening after the Stay at Home Directive expires on April 24, Gov. Steve Bullock said via a live streaming press call this afternoon. 

“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. “I know that this crisis is hurting Montana and Montanans, but I also know that if we get this wrong, it’ll hurt us even more.” 

He said that by next week, there will be a deliberate plan for reopening, that will include “thoughtful planning in the event that we face any setbacks.”  

The phased reopening will be accomplished using guidance provided by Montana National Guard General Matthew Quinn, based on military strategic planning principles. Public health experts, emergency responders, local providers as well as business and industry leaders will also have input. Objectives are 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.” 

Several factors will be taken into consideration, some of those metrics were presented by President Trump yesterday “and some of them are unique to Montana.”

Bullock discussed those 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’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,” he said. 

Bullock 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 provided current data: 422 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Montana, an estimated 233 patients who have recovered, and 21 active hospitalizations. The ninth and most recent loss to COVID-19 – a Cascade County resident, was announced today. 

“Each and everyone of those losses weighs heavily on me not just as a governor and a public servant, but also as a father and as a son,” he said. 

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. 

He iterated 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.  

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. 

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