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Montana’s phased reopening: What you need to know

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By Mira Brody EBS Staff

On Sunday, April 26, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s stay-at-home order that went into place March 28 expired for individuals and nonessential businesses, meaning local retailers can reopen with heightened sanitation practices and capacity restrictions. Exceptions include bars and restaurants, which will be allowed to open with strict guidelines on May 4.  

Entities allowed to operate as of today include:

  • Places of worship (were able to resume service starting yesterday)
  • Retail and other nonessential businesses
  • Outdoor recreation, such as public parks and organized youth activities

The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce is collaborating with Big Sky businesses as well as Madison County to synch operational oversight so that businesses in Town Center and the Big Sky Resort are following the same guidelines.

“We’re really working together with our restaurant businesses in particular that are going to be opening with their limited capacity,” said Candace Carr Strauss, CEO of Big Sky’s Chamber of Commerce. “We’re currently in shoulder season with the resort being closed so Big Sky is in a limbo with respect to what businesses would be open because many of them would be closed anyway.”

All businesses and organizations must adhere to capacity restrictions that allow for six-foot physical distancing. In the event that a business or place of worship does not have the space for patrons to remain six feet apart, they should limit their capacity to 10 or fewer people. Frequent sanitation protocols, hand-washing and non-medical face coverings are recommended.

Employers should continue to encourage telework whenever possible and accommodate alternative work schedules such as staggered scheduling to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Common spaces in the workplace should be closed and all nonessential business travel prohibited.

Individuals and patrons of these businesses should remain six feet apart whenever possible and avoid gatherings of 10 or more people. Vulnerable populations, including those over 65 years of age or people with serious underlying health conditions, should continue to follow stay-at-home orders. 

Strauss said the Big Sky Chamber hopes to have a mico-grant program approved that would provide financial aid options to small businesses in Big Sky that were unable to get federal funding through the federal Paycheck Protection Program loan. Monies for this program would be reallocated from Big Sky Resort Area District tax and mirror a similar program launched by the U.S. Chamber Foundation last week.

“Small businesses are still going to struggle to stay sustainable and it’s time for us to step in,” Strauss said.

Other directives still in place for all Montanans 

Although Phase One of reopening the economy has begun, the state of Montana is still under a state of emergency, meaning directives relating to COVID-19 are still in place, including:

  • Limitations on all nonessential travel. Those traveling from out of state or flying in from another country must self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return to Montana.
  • Directives to limit foreclosures, evictions and disconnections from service and all terms are extended through May 24.

Visit covid19.mt.gov for the most up-to-date information about Montana’s phased reopening.

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