Phase 2 begins soon

By 
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Montana residents will soon be allowed to gather in larger groups, though disinfection and physical distancing must still take place.

Gatherings of up to 50 people can be allowed, restaurants and bars can have up to 75 percent capacity if they can provide appropriate distance between groups, and up to 10 people can sit at a table at one time under the new guidelines. The 11:30 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars remains in effect.

Montana has steadily moved from a stay-at-home order to a slow reopening of different sectors of the economy, to reduce the chances of outbreaks of the coronavirus. Bullock periodically cites the state’s lowest-in-the-nation rates of infection and hospitalizations for COVID-19 as reasons for relaxing restrictions, but also cautions the risk for outbreaks will continue.

The 14-day out-of-state travel quarantine will also be lifted, Bullock said in a May 19 press call. Bullock said Montana National Guard and state resources are ready to be deployed as needed to keep any outbreaks of the coronavirus contained. Yellowstone Park began allowing limited visitors into the park last week, and the Montana entrances to the park will open June 1.

Locally, Beaverhead County’s courthouse doors are open to walk-in traffic, though residents are encouraged to call first. Some departments have employees continuing to work from home.

Though larger groups will be allowed in the next phase, some activities and operations will continue to be restricted. That includes visitation to nursing homes, with strong recommendations to work from home or stay home if a person is at greater risk for catching the virus. Those individuals include people with compromised immune systems or those in older age groups.

Montana cases of COVID-19 have largely appeared in the 20-29 and 50- 59 age brackets, according to Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) data. Deaths from the virus occurred more often in the 70-79 age bracket.

There were eight more cases of COVID-19 in the state as of Tuesday and one new death, compared to the prior week. Ravalli County saw a spike of seven new cases on Wednesday, May 20. Occasional cases continue to appear in Yellowstone County.

Nationally, there were more than 1.6 million COVID-19 positive cases and 97,600 deaths as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For the full list of guidelines and requirements for phase 2 reopening, visit https://covid19.mt.gov.