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Bullock announces new restrictions to slow COVID-19 spread

Bullock announces new restrictions to slow COVID-19 spread
Posted at 3:54 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 20:53:43-05

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Tuesday he will implement new restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, including limiting public gatherings and capacity at restaurants, bars and casinos.

Bullock said three new directives would take effect Friday:

All restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and casinos must limit capacity to 50 percent and close at 10 p.m. Restaurants may reopen at 4 a.m. the next day.

All public gatherings are limited to 25 people or fewer.

Face masks are required in public areas in all counties in Montana, not just ones with four or more active cases. Currently, only two counties fall under that threshold, Bullock said.

“We’re all sick of this virus. We all have to collectively recognize that this virus won’t stop spreading in our communities any time soon unless we take collective action soon,” Bullock said.

In addition, Bullock said another $75 million in business stabilization grants would be available to businesses affected by these restrictions. Those grants are funded by federal coronavirus relief dollars, known as the CARES Act.

Montana reported 1,500 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday.

Here's the full news release from the governor's office:

MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock today announced new public health measures to limit capacity in bars, restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and casinos, to limit public gatherings to 25 individuals where social distancing is not possible, and to require face coverings in all counties regardless of case count beginning on Friday, November 20 to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Montana. Governor Bullock also announced he would direct unspent Coronavirus Relief Funds to aid businesses impacted by the restrictions and provide $200 a week in additional unemployment benefits to Montanans for four weeks.

“We must find a way to make it through these coming winter months. We need all Montanans to recognize that there is widespread community transmission, and your risk of becoming infected with the virus increases the more you engage in gatherings of any kind,” Governor Bullock said. “We all have to collectively recognize that this virus won’t stop spreading through our communities on its own. If we come together and follow the restrictions, we can curb some of the spread we are seeing.”

Governor Bullock’s directive places new restrictions to limit gatherings as cases in Montana and across the nation have spiked over the last several weeks. Restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and casinos can operate at a maximum of 50 percent capacity, and can close no later than 10 p.m. Tables will be limited to six people per table and establishments are still required to maintain social distancing.

Governor Bullock’s directive also modifies the requirements described in the July 15 Directive providing for the mandatory use of face coverings in certain settings and the August 12 Directive providing for the mandatory use of face coverings in all K-12 schools to apply in all counties statewide, whether or not a county has identified four active cases.

Public gatherings will be limited to 25 individuals where social distancing is not possible or observed. The directive exempts places of worship which remain subject to the 50 person limit provided in phase two where social distancing can be maintained. Leaders are encouraged to ensure social distancing and encourage virtual services where possible. The directive does not alter current requirements for schools.

Governor Bullock also strongly encouraged Montanans to limit their involvement of any private in-person gatherings of 15 or more people, as private social gatherings are a significant contributor to the spread of the virus.

To support businesses impacted by restrictions, the Governor will be providing another round of the Business Stabilization Grants to the existing businesses that have been vetted through the process and have received prior funding. A total of $75 million will be available to businesses. Businesses who have already received Business Stabilization Grants will receive an email inviting them to accept a third round of funding. To be eligible for funding, businesses must agree to comply with all state and local COVID-19 orders including requiring masks, social distancing, capacity, and closing time restrictions.

Governor Bullock will also be providing $25 million to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry to provide eligible Montanans who are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19 disruptions with a supplemental payment of $200 a week for four weeks beginning on the week ending November 28 and ending December 19. To receive this support, eligible recipients do not need to apply separately. Individuals will receive the benefit if they keep filing their regular payment requests in montanaworks.gov or mtpua.mt.gov.

The full directive can be read here: https://covid19.mt.gov/Portals/223/Documents/2020-11-17_Directive%20on%20Group%20Size%20and%20Capacity%20-%20FINAL.pdf?ver=2020-11-17-150044-130 [covid19.mt.gov]

This is a developing story.

Watch Bullock's full news conference below: