HELENA — Many Montana main street and retail businesses that closed their doors due to COVID-19 restrictions, were able to open up again Monday as part of the state's first phase of reopening.
Gov. Steve Bullock told MTN News that this milestone was only possible because Montanans took the virus seriously.
“We’re one of the few states in the country that have actually seen the decline of COVID-19 cases,” said Bullock. “Let's not forget what we’ve learned of the last six, seven weeks, because what got us here was being careful, social distancing and watching out for our friends and neighbors.”
People are asked to follow guidelines the state put out which include not gathering in groups larger than 10 people, staying six feet apart and wearing a face mask when social distancing isn’t possible.
In addition to non-essential retail businesses being able to reopen, beginning on May 4 bars, restaurants and casinos can also reopen for dining and in-house service. Service industry venues have to follow strict physical distancing guidelines, cleaning requirements and close by 11:30 p.m.
Gyms and other fitness businesses were not included in phase one reopening with Bullock saying they were excluded following recommendations from health officials.
“When listening to public health folks, their concern is you don’t always have the distancing and a lot more potential bodily fluids, sweat, being transmitted,” said Bullock. “But we will really look closely at things like gyms and movie theaters as we go forward.”
Montana doesn’t currently have a hard date for when phase two of the reopening might begin, and will base the decision on data, resource availability and health expert input.
“There’s no magic date,” said Bullock. “What I’ll be doing is talking to public health folks and making sure we have the testing capability, the health care capability and the personal protective equipment, but even more than that look at the positive and negative tests and seeing where the trends are.”
Bullock added right now Montana is taking a measured approach so that ultimately, we don’t have to take steps back.