GREAT FALLS — Phase Two of the "Reopening The Big Sky" plan -- which began on Monday -- means that some restrictions are being loosened, but one thing that stays the same is a CDC recommendation for staying safe and also protecting others - wearing a mask or covering on your face.
Health officials are advising people to be careful as Montanans look to visit more venues. "If the restaurant's way overcrowded get take-out or if it’s crowded in a store come back another day,” said Cascade City-County Health Officer Trisha Gardner.
Gardner still recommends people social distance themselves from others and use face masks as residents gather for religious ceremonies or larger events. "That's just an extra layer of protection for you and your vulnerable community members," she said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends people wear masks when they're not able to keep six feet away from others. “For essentials like groceries or gas or pharmaceutical needs," said Gardner. But she says masks don't make a difference if you aren't keeping cleanliness in mind.
Disposable masks need to be replaced often. "If they're cloth they need to be cleaned regularly,” she said. “People need to pay attention to how often they're wearing them and make sure that's happening."
With more entertainment venues like bowling alleys and rollerskating rinks opening back up Gardner says to keep calm and use common sense, "making sure that they’re really monitoring sanitation,” she said. “That they're sanitizing those high touch areas."
Phase Two also means lifted travel restrictions for out of state visitors. "Monitoring the steps that they're taking when they do travel or when they're encountering people coming in from out of state," she said.
When it comes to safety precautions, Gardner says to remember it's not just about you, “it's about protecting our wider community."
Here are some of the highlights of phase two:
- 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 canceled unless physical distancing can be maintained. It is recommended to continue to social distance in gatherings of any size.
- 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 handwashing and wearing masks in public places like grocery stores.