Bullock provides update on Montana's response to coronavirus

Posted at 8:33 AM, Mar 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-21 10:44:07-04

HELENA — Governor Steve Bullock said during a news conference on Friday that so far, Montana has had enough supplies to give coronavirus tests to everyone who has been identified by healthcare providers, but he said they are still looking for more.

As of Friday (March 20) there are 21 confirmed COVID-19 patients in the state of Montana. Yellowstone County has 5 reported cases, Missoula has 4, Gallatin has 3, Flathead County has 2, Lewis & Clark has 2; and the following counties have one each: Butte-Silver Bow, Broadwater, Roosevelt, Ravalli and Madison. As of Friday evening, the public health lab in Helena has completed 1,166 tests for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Bullock also said that about 16,000 N95 masks will be provided to hospitals and first responders around the state. He said additional swabs – which are used to collect samples for testing – will also be arriving soon.

“There is a national shortage of supplies to a degree needed for COVID-19, and we’re doing everything possible to overcome this challenge in Montana – secure necessary materials that will allow the health care community to safely test those who need it,” said Bullock.

Earlier on Friday, Bullock ordered the statewide closure of dining rooms in restaurants, and also bars, breweries and other businesses that could draw large gatherings. He said he had been considering the action for several days, but now was the right time to do it. “As we see positive cases that include both younger and older Montanans, and in cases urban and now rural, I know that that closure and these actions are imperative to protect our friends and neighbors,” he said.

The order went into effect at 8 p.m. on Friday, and expires at 11:59 p.m. on March 27 – the same time that statewide school closures are set to expire. However, Bullock said that time was chosen simply to align the two measures, and that it is possible both orders would be extended.

Bullock also announced that Montana’s income tax filing deadline will be extended from April 15 to July 15. The change brings the state in line with the federal deadline, which was already delayed.

During Friday’s update, Bullock praised actions by Montana businesses and individuals that have worked to help their neighbors during this time. He asked all Montanans to continue doing all they can.

“There are two ways that together, we’re going to make it through all of this – and Montanans are already engaging in both of those ways,” he said. “First, preventative measures through social distancing, and second, looking out for one another with our strong community ties.”

On Friday morning, Bullock announced measures to close dine-in food service and alcoholic beverage businesses and other activities that pose enhanced health risks, effective at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020. The order expires at 11:59 p.m. on March 27, 2020, the same day that school closures are set to expire, though the date will likely be extended.

The order states that the following places are closed to ingress, egress, use, and occupancy by members of the public:

  • Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other similar establishments offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption.
  • Alcoholic beverage service businesses, including bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other establishments offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
  • Cigar bars.
  • Health clubs, health spas, gyms, aquatic centers, pools and hot springs, indoor facilities at ski areas, climbing gyms, fitness studios, and indoor recreational facilities.
  • Movie and performance theaters, nightclubs, concert halls, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and music halls.
  • Casinos.

The places subject to the order are permitted and encouraged to offer food and beverage using delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service, and to use precautions in doing so to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19, including social distancing. Customers may order and pay by telephone or online from a retailer or manufacturer licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in the State of Montana. A retailer or manufacturer licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in the state of Montana may deliver for sale the alcoholic beverages for which it is licensed. Delivery must be conducted by the licensee’s employees over the age of 21 and age of the purchaser and recipient must be verified at the time of delivery. The purchased alcohol must be hand-delivered to the purchaser. In offering food or beverage, a place subject to this section may permit up to five members of the public at one time inside for the purpose of picking up their food or beverage orders, so long as those individuals are at least six feet apart from one another while on premises.

The restrictions imposed by this order do not apply to any of the following:

  • Establishments that offer food and beverage not for on-premises consumption, including grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and food pantries, other than those portions of the establishments restricted above.
  • Room service in hotels.
  • Health care facilities, residential care facilities, university dining facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities.
  • Crisis shelters or similar institutions.
  • Airport concessionaires.
  • Military dining facilities or military food operations.
  • Any facilities necessary for the response to the emergency, including schools providing necessary meal services to children.
  • All of the above-named facilities and establishments should adopt appropriate social distancing practices to avoid the spread of disease, to the extent practicable.

The state-wide order comes after several counties and town imposed similar restrictions earlier this week.