Montana Gov. Steve Bullock banned all non-essential business and gatherings outside residences in the state for two weeks, starting Saturday, March 28. The order, which was announced March 26, is set to last through April 10.
“Montana must act now, before its own rate of infection mirrors that of other states,” Gov. Steve Bullock stated in the order. “While the times ahead will not be easy, Montanans have always pulled together in times of crisis.”
The order prohibits all public or private gatherings of any size outside a household or residence. People are allowed to leave their homes for essential activities like seeking medical care, taking care of others (including pets) and gathering supplies like groceries. They can also go outdoors to walk, bike and practice other recreational activities, provided they abide by social distancing regulations. The order discourages people to engage in activities that could result in injuries to avoid straining emergency services.
The order permits and urges individuals living in unsafe residences, including victims of domestic violence, to leave and stay elsewhere. All non-essential businesses, including gyms and barber shops, have been required to stop activities, but employees can still work from home. Essential businesses include universities, healthcare, transportation, food banks, grocery stores, take-out and delivery restaurants, gas stations and newspapers.
In an email sent to UM employees, President Seth Bodnar said the Montana University System is exempt from the order, though it has already switched to online classes.
“With today’s announcement from the governor, we will direct all managers across the campus to do everything possible to reduce even further the number of employees who must physically come to our campus to work,” Bodnar stated in the email.
The order requires that essential businesses continue practicing social distancing when possible. This includes maintaining six feet of distance between people. The order also requires that essential businesses set aside hours for vulnerable populations, specifically the elderly.
As of Monday, March 30, there were 171 confirmed COVID-19 cases and four related deaths in Montana, including 12 confirmed cases in Missoula County, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services’ website.
“I’m heartbroken to learn of Montana’s first death due to COVID-19. Montana truly is one big small town-- this news hits us hard, but we’re in this together. My family and I send our love and support to the family, friends, and community of our fellow Montanan,” Bullock stated in a tweet.
By March 30, Montana DPHHS announced three more COVID-19 related deaths. Bullock tweeted, “We lost two more Montanans, a total of four, to COVID-19. This is a blow to our state- wide community and a heartbreaking reminder to us all that we must continue to do everything we can to slow the spread of this disease.”