Shelter-in-Place order given by governor

State sees first COVID-19 death
Friday, March 27, 2020
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Montana’s first COVID-19 death was announced Thursday night by Governor Steve Bullock, just hours after he imposed a shelter-in-place order for 1 million Montanans.

As of Friday morning, no further information had been officially released about the death. However, in a Facebook post that has now been shared more than 2,000 times, the victim's son chronicled the jarring story of his 77-year-old father recently returning from a trip to California, falling ill on Monday and dying Thursday in a Kalispell hospital. Last rites were given over the phone. Final goodbyes had to be said over the phone as well.  

“I’m heartbroken to learn of Montana’s first death due to COVID-19. Especially during these times, Montana truly is one big small town – this news hits us hard, but we’re in this together,” said Bullock in a press release issued shortly after 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26.

As of Friday morning, March 27, there were 108 COVID-19 cases reported in Montana, and seven people hospitalized. By Friday night, that number had risen to 121. That was up from 71 cases on Thursday, March 26. Wednesday’s count was 53.

Gallatin County continued to lead the state with 39 cases, followed by Yellowstone County with 20 cases. Fifteen other counties have less than 10 cases each.


A few hours prior to the death notification, Bullock issued a shelter-in-place order, which instructs all Montana residents to stay home for the next two weeks as a doubled-down effort to further social distancing and lessen the impact of COVID-19.

The order also closes all non-essential businesses, unless work can be conducted from home. Bullock noted that restaurants, casinos and bars that serve food and that have been closed for inside dining for the past week can still provide delivery and pick-up services.

Home is defined as anywhere a person lives, be that a house, hotel, shelter, etc. 

The order goes into effect March 28 at 12:01 a.m.

 “In consultation with public health experts, health care providers, and emergency management professionals, I have determined that to protect public health and human safety, it is essential, to the maximum extent possible, individuals stay at home or at their place of residence,” Bullock said at the press conference. “There’s no doubt that COVID-19 is causing a lot of hardship. It’s also causing incredible hardships for our doctors, nurses and other hospital staff across the country. We need to give them a fighting chance to get ahead of this virus.”


Residents are allowed to leave home for what is defined as “essential activities,” such as seeking medical care, providing medical care for someone else, shopping for groceries, household and work products and shopping for anything “necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences,” according to the order. 

(See the order attached on this page for an extensive list of specific allowed activities).

Also allowed are outdoor activities, such as walking, biking and hiking, as long as the 6-foot space rule is observed. 

Bullock did include a caution and refrain from high-risk outdoor activities that could result in First Responders having to provide help instead of focusing on the COVID-19 issue. 


The list of essential jobs is long. Included are government functions, infrastructure, grocery stores, agriculture, pharmacies, organizations that provide charitable and social services, media, gas stations, financial institutions, real estate services, supply and hardware stores, mail, shipping and delivery businesses, educational institutions (for purposes of remote learning), laundry services, residential facilities and shelters, home-based care and services, businesses associated with critical products, hotels and funeral services.

Such businesses much visibly designate a 6-foot social distance space between employees, have had sanitizer and other products and have separate operating hours for elderly and high-risk people.Businesses with questions can contact a dedicated state line at 1-800-755-6672.

The governor is following the Department of Homeland Security’s “Identifying Critical Infrastructure During COVID-19” guidelines in identifying what are essential businesses. 

So is the Stillwater County Unified Command team, which consists of county and city officials, public health, Stillwater Billings Clinic, law enforcement, EMS services, county Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) and public schools. The team meets daily to review state and local developments.

Earlier this week, the team met with the Sibanye-Stillwater mining company and determined it to be an essential service, meaning the mine will continue its operations, under specific social distancing guidelines.

Also approved by the team this week was the upcoming Midland Test Bull Sale. 

“The actual auctions will take place via video presentation rather than through the ring with the majority of buyers participating online or by phone. Because this is an essential business, the governor’s prohibition of greater than 10 people gathering does not apply, however, appropriate social distancing will be observed,” said the team in a news release Thursday.


While most businesses are trying to figure out how to survive a shutdown that will be at least one month total, Montana Silversmiths has decided to step up and help the medical community.

Healthcare providers anticipate running out of basic supplies, such as masks and other personal protection equipment, when COVID-19 hits state full force. That prediction is based on a lack of availability of such equipment caused by a sudden rush of consumer panic purchases and a high global demand.

Montana Silversmiths is using 3D modeling technology to make masks for healthcare workers. The company normally uses 3D modeling for production and design of jewelry and buckles. The News will have more about this project soon.