Governor takes sweeping action

Thursday, March 19, 2020
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On Sunday, March 15, Gov. Steve Bullock issued a set of “directives and guidance” aimed at slowing down the spread of COVID-19.

All center on “social distancing” — a phrase that is rapidly becoming part of nearly every American’s vocabulary.

“These are difficult decisions,” Bullock told reporters in a conference call Monday afternoon, acknowledging the disruption of normal life and significant economic impact being made on the state and the nation. “But we must do all we can (to protect our health).”

The directives are as follows:

SCHOOL CLOSURES

The closure of all Montana public K-12 schools starting Monday, March 16, until March 27. Bullock noted that schools will “engage in planning to provide” free meals for students who need them, pursuant to a waiver obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture. Acknowledging the impact that school closures will have on many families, Bullock encourages “all employers to be generous with their employee sick and paid leave policies during this time.

Bullock also noted that the closure “was not done lightly.”

PUBLIC GATHERINGS Also being strongly recommended is the limiting of any gathering to no more than 50 people. And for those 60 and older, that they stay away from groups of 20 or more. Bullock also is recommending parents not use grandparents age 60 or older for childcare.

Some cities — inside the state and across the nation — have closed down bars, casinos and dine-in restaurants. Bullock was asked if he would go that far.

“I am strongly discouraging the gathering of more than 50 people,” said Bullock.

NURSING HOME VISITATION SUSPENDED

Bullock has also suspended all visitations to nursing homes statewide, with the exception of “certain compassionate care situations,” according to the press release. People who qualify for those situations must undergo a screening to determine where they have travelled in the prior two weeks, if they are living in a community where COVID-19 is spreading and if they have any symptoms.

Shipp’s Assisted Living in Absarokee, Beartooth Manor and the Meadowlark Assisted Living Center in Columbus had already taken this safety step.

“Social distancing is one of the most important primary protective measures to flatten the curve of this virus. I cannot underscore the seriousness of following these measures to help our neighbors, friends, and families,” said Gov. Bullock in the press release.

In Monday’s conference call, Bullock emphasized that all the directives are meant to “lessen the impacts” of COVID-19. He also said the more the state does to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 as Montanans, the sooner the state will be able to get back to normal.