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Restrictions and closures extended in Montana due to spread of coronavirus

Posted at 3:25 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 18:17:36-04

GREAT FALLS — Governor Steve Bullock hosted a news conference on Tuesday afternoon to give an update on Montana's efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). As of Tuesday morning, there are 46 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Montana (see below for county listing).

Bullock said that his school closure order, which was set to expire Friday, will be extended to April 10. His order to close all non-essential businesses, including bars, casinos, and gyms, was also extended to April 10. Restaurants remain prohibited from allowing people to eat in their dining rooms, but can continue to provide take-out, curb-side, and delivery service (see here). Bullock also banned all gatherings outside of private residences of 10 people or more to slow the spread of COVID-19. He added that the restrictions and closures may be extended.

Bullock also said that effective immediately, non-essential social and recreational gatherings of individuals outside of a home or place of residence of greater than ten people are prohibited, if a distance of at least six feet between individuals cannot be maintained. He noted that is consistent with actions taken in other states to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Retail businesses are also required to establish, implement, and enforce social distancing policies to ensure a minimum of six feet between customers, effective March 28. This requirement does not apply to grocery, health care, medical, or pharmacy services, although they are also encouraged to comply with social distancing protocols if possible.

When asked if he was considering ordering a "shelter in place," as several states have done, Bullock said that he hoped the current restrictions and closures would help to curb the spread of the virus, but did not rule it out as a possible measure in the future.

The Directive, like its predecessor orders, is a public health order enforceable by County Attorneys, and preempts all county health ordinances if they are less restrictive, the governor said.

Bullock also said that Montana is preparing for a potential surge of patients needing hospital care. On Monday, he announced a directive that temporarily waives the bidding process to quickly procure or distribute emergency supplies or contract for additional space to care for patients. Additionally, the directive streamlines the process for releasing patients and discharging them back to their home communities without delay as they recover, which will free up beds and equipment for new patients.

As of Tuesday morning (March 24), there are 46 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Montana.

Here is the total by county:
Gallatin: 16
Yellowstone: 7
Missoula: 6
Flathead: 4
Cascade: 3
Lewis & Clark: 3
Butte-Silver Bow: 3
Madison: 1
Ravalli: 1
Broadwater: 1
Roosevelt: 1

There have not been any deaths in Montana attributed to COVID-19 at this point. Officials in Montana are keeping a list of confirmed cases in the Treasure State on an updated map and website - click here to visit the site.

As of Monday afternoon, the DPHHS public health lab in Helena has completed 1,689 tests for COVID-19.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States have soared above 45,000 as of Tuesday morning, as the number of deaths linked to the disease has reached 591.