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Health board discuses Gov. Bullock’s phased reopening, moves to extend health order

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By Mira Brody EBS Staff

BOZEMAN – At an April 23 board meeting, the Gallatin County-City Health Department voted to extend the emergency local health rule related to COVID-19 that closed businesses to Saturday April 25 at midnight. They will move toward a phased reopening of Gallatin County in harmony with Gov. Steve Bullock’s directive.

“This is going to be an endeavor that is laden with risk,” said GCCHD Health Officer Matt Kelley. “The community, business owners included, have paid a price to get us to this point and I want to make sure we don’t waste that.”

Kelley recommended the board stay in line with the timeline announced by Gov. Bullock on April 22, which is outlined as follows: to allow the stay-at-home order to expire for individuals and places of worship on April 26; to allow retail businesses, outdoor recreation and organized youth activities to become operational starting April 27; to allow bars and restaurants to become operational on May 4 and to allow schools the option to reopen on May 7.

The reopening process will encourage increased sanitation guidelines, the use of face coverings and will request patrons to practice social distancing and strictly limit capacity. It does not require businesses to reopen nor does it encourage members of the community to rush out and patron bars or restaurants come Monday. Kelley strongly urges business owners and individuals to first read Gov. Bullock’s plan, then contact the health department with any questions.

“What we want to remind Montanans is that the virus remains dangerous and widespread,” said Kelley. “There’s individual responsibility here. As we move forward, it’s important that we work together but we are still in the midst of a pandemic.”

The stay-at-home order will remain in place for vulnerable individuals with underlying conditions and those with any symptoms should still contact their primary care provider and stay home. Members of the community should continue to wash their hands diligently and limit social circles as much as possible—anyone who becomes a case will be asked who they’ve been in contact with and the health department wants that list to be as small as possible.

Gov. Steve Bullock’s timeline for reopening the economy

  • April 26 – Stay at home directive expires for individuals. Places of worship may operate with reduced capacity and strict physical distancing protocols.
  • April 27 – The stay-at-home directive expires for non-essential businesses. Retail businesses, outdoor recreation, organized youth activities and personal care services may become operational with guidelines for additional safety precautions.
  • May 4 – Restaurants and bars can become operational with strict physical distancing and reduced capacity protocols, patrons must leave by 11:30pm.
  • May 7 – Schools have option to reopen; decision lies with local school board.

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