Governor’s directive closes certain businesses to slow transmission of COVID-19

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

According to the Central Montana Health District, on Friday, March 20, Governor Steve Bullock issued a directive to close public occupancy of the following establishments:

• Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other similar establishments offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption.

• Alcoholic beverage service businesses, including bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other establishments offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.

• Cigar bars.

• Health clubs, health spas, gyms, aquatic centers, pools and hot springs, indoor facilities at ski areas, climbing gyms, fitness studios, and indoor recreational facilities.

• Movie and performance theaters, nightclubs, concert halls, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and music halls.

• Casinos.

The places subject to this directive are permitted and encouraged to offer food and beverage using delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service, and to use precautions in doing so to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19, including social distancing.

The restrictions imposed by this directive do not apply to any of the following:

• Establishments that offer food and beverage not for onpremises consumption, including grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and food pantries, other than those portions of the establishments restricted above.

• Room service in hotels.

• Health care facilities, residential care facilities, university dining facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities.

• Crisis shelters or similar institutions.

• Airport concessionaires.

• Military dining facilities or military food operations.

• Any facilities necessary for the response to the emergency, including schools providing necessary meal services to children.

This directive is effective from 8 p.m. on Friday, March 20 and expires at 11:59 p.m. on March 27, although it may be extended by further directive.

The Central Montana Health District Board of Health and Susan Woods, Central Montana Health District Health Officer, would like the communities within the health district to know that, while at this time there are no known cases of COVID-19 within the six counties of the health district, there are known cases in close population centers such as Billings and Missoula. Due to this, the Board of Health recognizes that bold measures are needed at state, local and regional levels.

While the Governor’s directive may have taken some by surprise, businesses have been preparing to modify their day-to-day operations or even to close temporarily over the past several days. Megan Spry, Registered Sanitarian for the health district said on Friday, “We are calling all affected businesses today to let them know about the directive and answer any questions they might have, but many of them had already voluntarily closed their dining rooms, or taken other measures to help ensure their patrons stay safe. We all want what is best for our residents.”

“We recognize that these restrictions will pose a hardship on many businesses,’ said Woods. “We want business owners to be aware that help is out there. We encourage all small businesses being impacted by these closures to contact the Snowy Mountain Development Corporation by either going online to their website at snowymountaindevelopment.com, emailing Sara Hudson at info@snowymountaindevelopment. com or by contacting your local Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator.”

Finally Woods would like to encourage everyone to remain calm.

“It is essential that we don’t panic,” she said. “While some people may feel the COVID-19 response is an overreaction, especially since we don’t have a large number of cases in Montana yet, taking these precautions is the best and most proven way to lessen the burden of COVID-19 illness and disease on our communities. If we work together to protect our most vulnerable populations -- our elderly, our immune compromised, our cancer survivors -- we will not only survive these trying times, but will grow in our sense of community and solidarity.”

Disaster and Emergency Services coordinators can be contacted through local county courthouses. Central Montana Health District can be contacted by calling 406-535-3983. Daily updates of local COVID-19 case numbers can be accessed through the Central Montana Health District website at www.centralmontanahealthdistrict.org.

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