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Montana set to enter second phase of reopening June 1

| May 19, 2020 3:23 PM

Montana is set on June 1 to move into phase two of reopening the state, Gov. Steve Bullock announced Tuesday afternoon.

The 14-day travel quarantine for non-essential travel into the state will also be lifted on June 1, related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bullock said Montana continues to have the lowest number of positive cases of the virus and lowest number of hospitalizations per capita of any state in the country.

“Montana has truly been an example for the rest of the nation for this pandemic,” Bullock said. “I no doubt believe Montana can continue to be an example, but only if we follow the guidelines.”

The state has had a downward trajectory of positive tests as percent of total tests within a 14-day period.

Under phase two, vulnerable individuals should continue to remain at home and telework is still recommended. Social distancing of keeping 6-feet between others is still necessary, along with the wearing of cloth masks when distancing isn’t possible.

Gatherings may expand to 50 people when social distancing isn’t possible. Restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms, fitness studios and pools can increase to an operating capacity of 75%. Bowling alleys and indoor and outdoor event venues can also reopen with the same reduced capacity.

Bullock said the goal continues to be mitigating the spread of the virus by asking individuals to wash their hands, wear cloth masks and disinfecting surfaces regularly.

“The virus is still with us and will be for the foreseeable future,” Bullock said. “We can’t prevent all COVID-19 cases, but there are things we can do to give Montana a sense of normal.”

On June 1, the Montana entrance gates to Yellowstone National Park are expected to reopen. Bullock said he is in conversations about reopening Glacier National Park.

Screenings for COVID-19 at train depots and airports around the state will continue. Bullock said he is speaking with destination cities around the state to ensure that they are prepared for visitors and that the state is ready to respond if necessary to those communities.

“As Montana welcomes back visitors we want them to know that it’s with limited services,” he added. “We want to make sure that visitors don’t bring problems from their state here.”

Bullock said the state will continue to work with local health departments to increase the capacity for contract tracing for individuals who test positive for the virus, and continue to work to obtain personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and first responders and tests.

During phase two, visitations to nursing homes remain suspended except for end of life situations.

Bullock last month ended the stay-at-home aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 and announced a phased reopening of businesses.

The governor released a three-phased approach to reopen the state that provides guidelines for individuals and employers at each phase. A gradual increase in operating capacity at businesses is part of each step of the plan. In the third phase, most restrictions are lifted, but social distancing is encouraged, along with increased cleaning.

Montana on Tuesday had 471 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 16 deaths related to the disease. Almost 29,000 tests have been completed.

Flathead County has 37 confirmed cases. The last new case in the county was reported on April 13.

The first COVID-19 case was reported in the state on March 11. It took 13 days to reach 100 reported cases.

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