GREAT FALLS — Montana has moved to phase two of the "Reopening The Big Sky" plan.
Gov. Steve Bullock outlined the following indicators which prompted him - in consultation with public health officials and disaster response personnel - 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.
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 hand washing and wearing masks in public places like grocery stores.
We spoke with Trisha Gardner, the health officer of the City-County Health Department in Great Falls. She said, "I think some of the biggest things that people should be conscientious of is their health. So as more and more people... start coming together, and groups start resuming, it's essential to monitor your health and stay at home when you're sick. That's still one of the most important things that people can do, no matter what phase we're in. Just knowing how this spreads, that's the number one thing somebody can do for the health of their community and themselves is to stay home and recover there."
Gardner also said, "Right now the state of Montana is in a perfect spot to be able to offer testing to those that need it...we also have several sites going on within the state, throughout the state, that are doing kind of surveillance testing to try to see if we have any asymptomatic cases. And so at this point, yes, we do have the testing capabilities to be able to test people."