Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

By Roger Dey
BVD 

Bullock issues statewide stay-at-home order for Montana in response to COVID-19

Montana becomes 23rd state to implement such an order

 

Governor Steve Bullock issued a statewide stay-at-home order for the state of Montana during a press conference Thursday afternoon. March 26.

The order, referred to by some states as a shelter-in-place order, is set to begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 28 and last through Friday, April 10, the same date the extended closure order for schools and certain businesses was set to expire. Montana is the 23rd state to implement a stay-at-home order.

The measure is designed to further slow the spread of COVID-19, as increased testing has seen the number of confirmed coronavirus case in Montana increase in recent days. The number of cases jumped from 65 Wednesday evening to 90 on Thursday afternoon, ahead of the press conference.

Bullock said his order is designed to maximize social distancing by requiring residents to stay at home, except for essential activities and services.

"We know that for every person who stays at home and avoids large crowds, the better our chances are to fight this virus and protect our health care workers and emergency responders," he said.

Bullock said he made the decision in consultation with public health experts, health care providers and emergency management professionals. "To protect public health and safety, it's essential, to the maximum extent possible that individuals stay at home or their place of residence."

"Such an approach will reduce the overall number of infections in our state and it will preserve our healthcare resources," he said.

The measure allows Montanans to leave their residences for essential activities such as health and safety, to procure supplies and service, to take care of others and for certain types of work.

The directive also applies to visitors to Montana who, if they remain in the state, are asked to stay in their hotels, motels or rentals to the maximum extent possible.

According to the governor's directive, essential activities include travel for:

Health and safety. To engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets), such as, by way of example only and without limitation, seeking emergency services, obtaining medical supplies or medication, or visiting a health care professional.

Necessary supplies and services. To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others, such as, by way of example only and without limitation, groceries and food, household consumer products, supplies they need to work from home, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences

Outdoor activity. To engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with social distancing, as defined below, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, running, or biking. Individuals may go to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas, including public lands in Montana provided they remain open to recreation. Montanans are discouraged from outdoor recreation activities that pose enhanced risks of injury or could otherwise stress the ability of local first responders to address the COVID-19 emergency (e.g., backcountry skiing in a manner inconsistent with avalanche recommendations or in closed terrain).

Certain types of work. To perform work providing essential products and services at Essential Businesses or Operations or to otherwise carry out activities specifically permitted in this Directive, including Minimum Basic Operations.

Care of others. To care for a family member, friend, or pet in another household, and to transport family members, friends, or pets as allowed by this Directive.

Businesses considered non-essential are required to cease activities, unless the employees can perform their activities from home.

Those businesses considered essential can continue to operate, but are required to maintain social distancing as much as possible through designation of six-foot spacing, to provide sanitizing supplies such as hand sanitizers to employees and customers and to provide separate hours for elderly or other vulnerable customers.

Businesses and operations considered essential include healthcare and emergency services, stores that sell groceries and medicine, which includes convenience stores and restaurants and facilities that provide food and beverages for off-site consumption, in keeping with Bullocks March 24 order.

The order also allows for the continued operation of gas stations and repair services, financial and real estate services, hardware and supply stores, laundries and laundromats and mail and delivery services, including businesses that deliver food and beverages.

Other businesses considered essential include critical trades such as building and construction, plumbers and electricians, safety and sanitation services, businesses involved in food and beverage production and agriculture, including veterinary and animal-health service, businesses that provide products and services for livestock production, and organizations that provide charitable and social services, including food banks.

To find out if your business is considered an essential, Bullock encourages people to consult his directive at https://covid19.mt.gov/Portals/223/Documents/Stay%20at%20Home%20Directive.pdf?ver=2020-03-26-173332-177 (click on image at bottom of page) or to view the the federal guidelines they're derived form at www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce. (click on image at bottom of page)

As a last option, people can call 1-800-755-6672 if they aren't able to access the information online, or if they need additional clarification.

In response to a question at the press conference, Bullock explained his March 24 extension of the original school and business closure orders was calculated to give those institutions time to prepare for the extended closures before he issued the larger stay-at-home order.

Bullock said one of the gals behind the stay-at-home order is to keep as many people healthy as possible so the state can rebuild a healthy economy, saying the state will do everything it can to mitigate both the health and economic hardships

"We need to stay in front of this pandemic and slow the growth of these infections so that our healthcare system is not overwhelmed," Bullock said. "I'd rather be accused of overreacting than have our healthcare system overwhelmed and unable to help our most at-risk Montanans when they need it the most."

 

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