Governor Bullock reveals new statewide public health regulations to limit COVID-19 cases
November 19, 2020
MONTANA - Governor Steve Bullock announced on Tuesday that he would implement a new set of public health measures intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Montana beginning on Friday, Nov. 20. The measures would limit capacity in bars, restaurants, breweries, distilleries and casinos to 50%; limit public gatherings to 25 individuals when social distancing is not possible; and require face coverings in all counties statewide regardless of case count. These establishments must also close no later than 10 p.m. with no more than six people per table.
He said restrictions would be lifted as conditions progress. There is no current end date in place.
Similar restrictions were announced in Missoula County beginning Oct. 29 following a COVID-19 Joint Information Center meeting. Places of worship are exempt from this limitation but still must remain under 50 people. Leaders should ensure social distancing and encourage virtual services wherever possible. Gyms are also exempt.
The directive does not alter current requirements for schools. Face coverings must still be worn in all K-12 schools statewide whether or not a county has four active cases.
Bullock also announced that unspent Coronavirus Relief Funds would be sent out to aid businesses impacted by the restrictions. Through Business Stabilization Grants, businesses that have received prior funding will be able to acquire supporting funds out of an available $75 million pool. Those that have already received grants will receive an email inviting them to accept the additional funding.
Bullock said this pool will spend almost all of the remaining funding Montana received for coronavirus relief. He does not anticipate to have any money left by Dec. 30 which is the federal deadline to have all this money expended.
To be eligible for funding, businesses must agree to comply with all state and local COVID-19 orders including requiring masks, social distancing, limiting capacity and closing before the curfew.
Those who are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19 disruptions will begin receiving $200 a week in additional unemployment benefits between Nov. 28 and Dec. 19. The Montana Department of Labor & Industry received $25 million to provide these supplemental payments. Eligible recipients do not need to apply separately but they must keep filing their regular payment requests on https://montanaworks.gov/ or https://mtpua.mt.gov/_/.
Bullock said they are entering the initial stage of being able to provide a vaccine. He also shared that the Center for Disease Control emphasized new studies reveal that the wearing of cloth-based face coverings provides some protections for the wearer.
Because private social gatherings have been identified as a significant contributor to the virus’ spread, Bullock strongly encouraged residents to refrain from attending any private in-person gatherings of 15 or more people.
Bullock said while these restrictions would be enforced, it is more about doing that right thing than enforcement.
“We all have to collectively recognize that this virus won’t stop spreading through our communities anytime soon, unless we take active steps to stop its spread,” Bullock said. “The responsibility for doing that rests with each and every one of us.”
He said the tipping point for him to begin implementing restrictions was seeing cases continue to increase in both rural and urban areas. He also saw the healthcare system begin to reach a breaking point with the limited number of beds available. He was hopeful that Congress would take relief action after seeing the number of cases increase around the country, but because they have not taken action, he had to utilize what was leftover from the unused funding.
The full directive can be read at https://www.seeleylake.com/home/customer_files/article_documents/2020-11-17_govdirective.pdf