Missoula Co. officials discuss phased reopening guidelines

Posted at 2:57 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 19:08:43-04

MISSOULA — City and county officials are hosting a news conference to detail plans to allow for a phased reopening in Missoula County.

Click here to view the full order.

Missoula County Public Health Officer Ellen Leahy says that any events will be limited to 25 people -- including farmer markets -- and that salons, body art and similar businesses must remain closed until Gov. Bullock announces that Montana has moved into the second phase of a gradual reopening.

Retail business, formerly deemed "non-essential" and required to be closed during the stay-at-home directive may reopen to only curbside pick-up and delivery on April 27 which is a stricter requirement than detailed by Gov. Bullock. Those businesses will also have to follow additional requirements to make sure that people are more protected by May 1. The businesses will then be allowed to be open at 50% or less of business capacity.

Bars, distilleries, casinos and eateries will be allowed to open as previously announced by Gov. Bullock but there will be added guidelines and requirements.

Missoula County Public Schools will discuss concerns and considerations about whether or not to reopen schools during an April 28 meeting. A final decision will then be made at a special MCPS board meeting on May 1.

MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson announced that his recommendation will be that schools continue remote learning until the end of the school year.

Gov. Steve Bullock held a news conference earlier this week to provide details on Montana’s plan for a phased and gradual reopening.

Among the highlights of the plan is that many retail businesses can become operational beginning on Monday, April 27, and restaurants, bars, casinos, and breweries can become operational beginning on Monday, May 4, in accordance with certain guidelines.

Additionally, Bullock said schools would also have a choice to reopen on May 7, though that decision will be left to local school boards. If they do choose to reopen, they will be required to make adjustments and have plans in place for certain students, including those who choose to continue remote learning.

The "Re-opening The Big Sky" plan is divided into three phases; here is a summary of some of the key points of the first phase:


  • SENIOR LIVING OR ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES must continue to prohibit visitors. Those who do interact with residents and patients must ensure strict protocols regarding hygiene and protection are followed. This includes daily screening of staff for symptoms and preventing ill workers from working.
  • CHILD CARE FACILITIES can remain operational but should follow State and local guidelines regarding operational levels and occupancy.
  • ORGANIZED YOUTH ACTIVITIES can consider becoming operational if physical distancing guidelines can be implemented. Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • RESTAURANTS / BARS / BREWERIES / DISTILLERIES / CASINOS can become operational on or after May 4, under strict physical distancing and reduced capacity protocols in accordance with State guidelines. All patrons must be out of bars, restaurants, and casinos by 11:30.
  • MAIN STREET AND RETAIL BUSINESSES can become operational on or after Monday, April 27, with reduced capacity and where strict physical distancing protocols can be maintained.
  • GYMS / POOLS / HOT TUBS remain closed.
  • OUTDOOR RECREATION can become operational if sites adhere to strict physical distancing between groups and exercise frequent sanitation protocols if public facilities are open.
  • PLACES OF WORSHIP can become operational on or after Sunday, April 26, with reduced capacity and where strict physical distancing protocols can be maintained between non-household members. Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • Other PLACE OF ASSEMBLY shall remain closed (e.g., movie and performance theaters, concert halls, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and music halls).


  • ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to follow the stay home guidance. Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.
  • Vulnerable Individuals: people over 65 years of age and/or those with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy.
  • All individuals (non-household), WHEN IN PUBLIC (e.g., parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), should maximize physical distance from others. • Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • MINIMIZE NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL and adhere to Montana guidelines regarding quarantine.


  • Continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK whenever possible and feasible with business operations.
  • When telework is not feasible it is encouraged to ACCOMMODATE ALTERNATE WORK SCHEDULES such as shift work and staggered scheduling in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
  • Close COMMON AREAS where personnel are likely to congregate and interact; or enforce strict social distancing protocols.
  • SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS should be made for members of a VULNERABLE POPULATION or those with vulnerable household members.


  • Beginning May 7, 2020 all schools have the option to return to in-classroom teaching delivery. The State recognizes that if reopened, schools will require the district to make adjustments and create plans, policies, and procedures. If schools plan to reopen they should consider: Implementing an alternative educational delivery model that includes a mix of in-person and remote learning. Providing focused individual education, especially for at-risk students. How to reconnect and meet the educational needs of students who fall behind in a remote learning environment. The importance of maintaining the connection between students, teachers, and parents. The important role that schools play in the health of students, families, and communities. Graduation environments that can meet the social distancing requirements.