Gov. announces new restriction on MT establishments

Hunter Herbaugh
Thursday, November 19, 2020
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Gov. Steve Bullock on Tuesday announced new restrictions that will be put in place as cases of COVID-19 continue to spike across the state. The new public health measures will limit the capacity of restaurants, bars, casinos, distilleries to 50% and require they to close no later than 10 p.m. The restrictions also limit public gatherings to 25 people in situations where social distancing is not possible or observed and

The state mask mandate will also be in place in all counties, regardless of number of active cases. There are currently only two counties where the mask mandate is not in effect.

All new restrictions go into effect on Friday, Nov. 20.

These modifications do not change the gathering limits for places of worship, which are capped at 50 people when social distancing cannot be maintained, and they do not change the requirements for schools.

On Tuesday, Montana reported another 1,500 cases across the state, bringing total cases to 49,398. To date, there have been 2,161 hospitalizations and 543 deaths due to COVID-19.

“We must find a way to make it through these coming winter months. We need all Montanans to recognize that there is widespread community transmission, and your risk of becoming infected with the virus increases the more you engage in gatherings of any kind,” Bullock said in a statement. “We all have to collectively recognize that this virus won’t stop spreading through our communities on its own. If we come together and follow the restrictions, we can curb some of the spread we are seeing.”

In previous comments, the governor has said he did not want to implement new restrictions state-wide. However, he noted that with cases continuing to spike and hospitals being pushed to their limit, new restrictions became necessary.

“Cases continue to increase and we’re seeing outbreaks in our rural areas as well as our urban areas,” he said. “We’re also closer than ever to reaching a breaking point in our health care system, where we could run out of bed space and capacity to care for patients as we hit the winter months.”

He added that his decision also came partly due to inaction from Congress, saying that he had hoped a relief package would have been agreed upon, but that has not happened.

Along with modifications to public health restrictions, there are also modifications being made to state relief programs using the remaining funds the state received under the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Securities (CARES) Act. This includes a new round of Business Stabilization Grants being offered. Any business that has previously received these grants will receive an email inviting them to receive a third round of funding. A total of $75 million will be available to businesses. However, To be eligible for funding, businesses must agree to comply with all state and local COVID-19 orders including requiring masks, social distancing, capacity, and closing time restrictions.

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry has also been given $25 million to provide benefits to Montanans who have become partially or wholly unemployed due to COVID-19 related disruptions. Eligible individuals will receive supplemental payments of $200 per week for four weeks, beginning on the week ending November 28 and ending December 19. To receive this support, eligible recipients do not need to apply separately. Individuals will receive the benefit if they keep filing their regular payment requests in or mtpua.

In addition to these relief funds, Bullock announced that the state is currently in the process of securing contract health care workers to help bolster Montana hospitals. He said the state has been working with a firm in the Northwest to help supply these individuals, none of whom are being pulled from the existing health care workers in Montana.

Between the new round of relief grants and contracted health care workers, Bullock noted that it is likely all funds allocated to the state under the CARES Act will be used before Dec. 30, the federal deadline to use such funds.

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“We all have to collectively recognize that this virus won’t stop spreading through our communities on its own. If we come together and follow the restrictions, we can curb some of the spread we are seeing,”

Gov. Steve Bullock