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Montana to begin Phase Two of reopening on June 1

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Posted at 2:53 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 22:17:25-04

HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock has announced the state will move to Phase Two of the Reopening the Big Sky plan and will lift the 14-day out-of-state travel quarantine beginning June 1 as Montana continues to have the lowest number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations per capita.

“Montana has been an example for the rest of the nation in our response to this global pandemic. I have no doubt that we can continue to be that example, but only if Montanans, businesses, and visitors alike continue to take seriously the responsibility we all have in protecting others,” Gov. Bullock said during a Tuesday news conference. “As we continue with the next phase in our reopening, our goal together as Montanans for the foreseeable future is to mitigate the spread of the virus.”

In consultation with public health and emergency response officials, Governor Bullock outlined the following indicators which allow Montana to move into Phase Two beginning on June 1:

  • A downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period.
  • The current ability to contact and trace, along with plans to add additional contact tracers to the existing workforce.
  • Ensuring that health care workers have the supplies they need to treat COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
  • Ramping up testing capacity to eventually meet a target of 60,000 tests a month and prioritizing testing for vulnerable Montanans and tribal communities. A total of 5,600 tests were conducted last week. Increased testing continues with sentinel testing efforts in nursing homes and assisting living facilities, testing events in tribal areas, and drive through testing being conducted at a few sites.

Under Phase Two, effective June 1, avoid gatherings in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing. Groups larger than 50 people should be cancelled unless physical distancing can be maintained. It is recommended to continue to social distance in gatherings of any size.

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Also effective on June 1, restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and casinos remains in the same operations status as Phase One, but with an increase to 75% capacity. Gyms, indoor group fitness classes, pool, and hot tubs can operate at 75% capacity and only if they can adhere to strict physical distancing and they exercise frequent sanitation protocols. Concert halls, bowling alleys, and other places of assembly may operate with reduced capacity and if they adhere to strict physical distancing guidelines.

All businesses are required to follow the social distancing and sanitation guidelines established in Phase One, and Montanans are strongly encouraged to continue sanitation practices, including hand washing and wearing masks in public places like grocery stores.

“Social distancing, wearing a cloth mask, washing your hands, and sanitizing are all part of our new normal. If not for you, do it for others, especially for the most vulnerable among us,” Gov. Bullock said. “Not following these guidelines could put us in a position where we have to go backward, instead of being able to continue to move forward.”

Visitation at nursing homes and assisted living facilities remains suspended except for certain compassionate care situations under Phase Two.

Effective June 1, the 14-day travel quarantine for out-of-state travelers and residents arriving from another state or country to Montana for non-work-related purposes will be lifted. The Montana National Guard will continue to conduct screenings in airports and train depots and refer anyone with COVID-19-related symptoms to local public health officials.

The state will assist with establishing the following protocols:

  • Surveillance testing of employees.
  • Enhanced contact tracing resources deployed to these areas as requested by local authorities.
  • Ability to surge personal protective equipment to impacted health care systems.
  • Guidelines for operation for business that see high-tourist activity.

The previously published "Re-opening The Big Sky" plan is divided into three phases.

Below is a summary of some of the key points of the second phase:

  • Gatherings may expand to 50 people.
  • Vulnerable populations should continue to follow stay home guidance.
  • Gyms / Pools / Hot Tubs can become operational.
  • In addition to houses of worship, other places of assembly can become operational under the group size restrictions and physical distancing guidelines in this phase. home directive

Phase Two: Individuals and Employers

  • Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL guidelines remain the same as PHASE ONE for individuals traveling into Montana and for Montanans returning home.
  • VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to adhere to the stay home guidance.
  • Continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK as much as possible and where feasible but refer to guideline in PHASE ONE when telework is not possible.
  • SENIOR LIVING OR ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES must continue to follow the guidelines of PHASE ONE.
  • CHILD CARE FACILITIES can increase capacity if physical distancing guidelines can be implemented.
  • ORGANIZED YOUTH ACTIVITES remain operational and should avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • ALL BUSINESSES can remain operational and must adhere to physical distancing.
  • RESTAURANTS / BARS / BREWERIES / DISTILLERIES / CASINOS remain in the same operational status as PHASE ONE, but with an increase in capacity.
  • GYMS / POOLS / HOT TUBS can become operational with reduced capacity and only if they can adhere to strict physical distancing and they exercise frequent sanitation protocols.
  • OUTDOOR RECREATION remain in the same operational status as PHASE ONE.
  • PLACES OF ASSEMBLY can become operational with reduced capacity and must adhere to physical distancing. Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.

Click here to read the full "Re-opening The Big Sky" plan.



Gov. Bullock announced on April 22 a phased re-opening plan for Montana. Many retail businesses are up and running with restaurants, bars, casinos, and breweries again operational.

Saying the city needs more time to prepare for a phased reopening and still lacks testing materials, the Missoula City-County Health Department on April 24 implemented guidelines more stringent than those issued this week by Gov. Steve Bullock in his Phase 1 plans.

Gov. Bullock announced new guidelines on May 7 that will allow gyms and fitness studios, movie theaters and museums the option to reopen beginning Friday, May 15 as long as they adhere to strict guidelines.



We know the COVID-19 pandemic is changing our community. To keep you and your family informed as we move forward, we're beginning a new series of reports. They are stories that will help all of us navigate through these uncertain times. In the coming weeks and months, we'll be focusing on “The Rebound: Montana.”

It is a series of reports, videos, and information that show our commitment to stories that will help you as our communities begin to rebound - from what you'll need to know when it's time to go back to work, to how those in the community continue to step up and help others.