Governor issues stay-at-home order

by Heidi Desch
Whitefish Pilot | March 31, 2020 1:46 PM

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday afternoon issued a stay-at-home order that began Saturday, March 28, in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The order went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday and runs through April 10.

“I’m taking these measures today because we need to stay in front of this pandemic,” he said. “And stay in front of this so our healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed.”

Only essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies are allowed to operate, and restaurants through carry-out service. The directive also prohibits all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a residence.

Folks are allowed to leave home for essential activities such as visiting the grocery store.

Public parks and open outdoor recreation areas, including public lands in Montana provided will remain open, but those outdoors must abide by social distancing rules keeping a distance of 6 feet from others.

As of presstime, Montana had 184 confirmed cases of the virus and had four deaths as a result of the virus. Flathead County had 11 cases.

“In order to have a healthy economy we need a healthy population,” Bullock said. “We cannot rebuild our economic strength without doing everything we can now to flatten the curve and slow the spread of this virus.”

Essential businesses include those in areas of health care and public health operations, human services, essential government functions and public works, along with stores that sell groceries, organizations that provide charitable services, gas stations, financial institutions, hardware stores, mail services, laundry services, food service for carry-out, transportation, manufacturing, professional services, and hotels and motels.

Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld issued a message on Sunday asking Whitefish residents to follow the directive by staying at home except for essential tasks such as going to the grocery story, caring for family at another location and recreating outside.

“I ask you to consider a perspective moving forward — think about it this way — don’t change your behavior to avoid being infected, assume you are infected and change your behavior to avoid transmitting it to others,” Muhlfeld said. “The most vulnerable in our community are most at risk of this virus and symptoms often don’t show up for many days. Please help us prevent the spread and flatten the curve.”

Muhlfeld said it’s important to get outside to exercise for health, but be sure to maintain 6-foot social distancing from others while doing so.

He requested that residents who have traveled out-of-state or those who have returned to a second home in Whitefish, to self quarantine for 14 days.

“I know all this change is hard right now, but it is the only thing that we can count on right now except for each other,” he said. “I know I can count on this community to come together in the most challenging times and come out stronger for it.”

Bullock last week also extended the closure of Montana schools through at least April 10.

Businesses with questions on what is considered essential can contact a state line at 1-800-755-6672. More information on what is considered an essential business is also available at https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce.

Heath officials continue to encourage social distancing — avoiding others by staying at least 6 feet apart and staying home — to slow the spread of the disease. Folks are also asked to wash hands frequently and avoid touching their face, and regularly clean and disinfect touched objects and surfaces.

Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, shortness of breath and coughing, and these may occur up to 14 days after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those with signs of illness, in particular, are asked to remain at home and contact their healthcare provider by phone.

The Flathead City-County Health Department has established an information-only hotline for the community to learn updates, which can be reached at (406) 751-8188. A website has also been established to provides guidance to the general public at https://flatheadhealth.org/novel-coronavirus-covid-19/.

The state has established a website with information related to the coronavirus, visit https://covid19.mt.gov/