Montana’s plan to reopen

By | April 23, 2020
Over the last several weeks, Montanans have faced unprecedented challenges. Our way of life has changed rapidly. Like every corner of our country, our once thriving economy is ailing.

We have lost family members and friends.

I’ve said it before and you will hear me say it again: In times of crisis, Montanans have always pulled together. And this time has been no different.

Back in March, we knew that if we did not act, there would be dire consequences. That is why on Thursday, March 12, we declared a state of emergency before there were any confirmed cases of COVID-19 here in Montana.

Just a few days later, after the first confirmed cases of the virus in the state, we made the decision to temporarily close our schools and allow for remote learning.

On March 20th, we announced the closure of higher-risk businesses, such as bars, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters.

And on March 27, Montana entered into the stay at home order before over half of the states in the country did so.

We have been aggressively managing the virus. As a result of the actions we have taken, we have among the lowest number of COVID-19 cases in the nation, and indeed of all the states, the lowest percentage of positive cases per capita when compared to our population. Montana also has the lowest number of hospitalizations, per capita, in the nation.

In short, we have flattened the curve and saved lives.

That is why today I announced the collective actions and sacrifices of Montanans have allowed us to get to where we are today – to begin a phased reopening of the state.

While there is reason for optimism this is not a time for celebration. I am asking Montanans to continue to go to great lengths to protect one another.

Because once we begin to reopen, we want to be able to stay open.

Our personal responsibility to protect those around us – particularly those most vulnerable – remains as important now as any time during this pandemic.

Montana’s plan to reopen and my Directive are posted online 
HERE and all COVID-19 related information can be found at: https://covid19.mt.gov/. My plan includes the steps we’ll be taking starting on Sunday to reopen and includes specific guidance for businesses and others to follow to keep Montanans safe and healthy.

Montana will enter the first phase of the plan beginning Sunday. Schools will have the option to reopen beginning May 7. Mainstreet and retail businesses can open on or after April 27. Places of worship can become operational on or after April 26
th. Gyms, pools, and hot tubs remain closed as do other places of assembly including movie theaters, concert halls and bowling alleys.

Additionally, we are instructing all vulnerable Montanans to continue to follow the stay at home directive.

I strongly encourage business owners to read the guidance posted on the website to make sure they can comply with new requirements lowering capacity and requiring social distancing.

We are relying on Montanans to continue vigilance in handwashing and sanitizing, staying home if sick, calling a provider to get tested if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and minimizing non-essential travel.

Additionally, visits to Montana’s nursing homes will continue to be suspended except for certain compassionate care situations.

Our senior and assisted living facilities are among the most vulnerable places for cluster outbreaks, and while I can only imagine how hard it is for our legacy Montanans to be isolated as they have been, know that these steps are to keep them safe.

Even as we begin a phased approach to reopening, with the first steps in Phase 1 beginning this Sunday, we are not out of the woods yet with this virus.

Our new normal is going to look different. This virus isn’t gone from Montana. So, as we turn to support our main street businesses and get more families back to work during this time – as we should – we must also be sure to continue looking out for those around us and protecting everyone around us.

We will be monitoring cases closely and carefully. We need to see how this first phase works for Montana in line with our continued efforts to slow the spread of this virus.

Again this phased reopening plan and guidance for impacted businesses can be reviewed online 
HERE.

Thank you for your comments to my office about how we can continue to protect the health of all Montanans as we start to get Montanans back to work and reengaged in our economy.

We need to keep working together, keep taking care of our neighbors, and keep doing what’s best for Montana.

Sincerely,

STEVE BULLOCK
Governor 

It’s Been Fun!

By | April 14, 2020

Sunset | photo by Debo Powers

Update: May 30th will be our last day. We wanted to say thank you to all the folks who have written so many kind words about NFNews. And thank you once again for everyone’s support throughout the years. The North Fork has the best bunch of people ever. We’re going to miss you!

Before we go, here are some fun facts:

  • We started in 2010, so that makes us 10 years old.
  • We posted over 8,000 times.
  • Almost 3,000 photos were posted (many of those contributed by our friends and neighbors)
  • We had 4,000 visitors with almost 10,000 views

The most popular post of all time? A video from Tim Manley called “Elk Crossing” with 450 views.

Continue reading

Extension of Stay at Home and Other Directives

By | April 8, 2020

Today I extended my Directives through April 24 to protect Montanans from COVID-19 by slowing the spread of the virus in Montana.

These extensions include my stay at home order, school closures, on-premises dining and beverage operations, eviction and foreclosure suspensions and service disconnections and the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for travelers coming into Montana.

We don’t have to become like New York, Louisiana or Idaho. We know that staying home will help to flatten the curve. For every person we take out of the chain of transmission of this virus, the more likely our health care facilities can handle the capacity to respond, and the more likely we can beat back this virus sooner rather than later.

We stay at home to ensure that our health care workers and first responders have adequate time to receive the supplies to keep them, their patients, and their families safe. We stay home to protect Montanans in our rural communities and our rural health care workers who face long distances to access care.

Stay home. Avoid gatherings or hanging out with people outside of your household. Only go out if you are an essential worker, or to take a trip to the grocery store, or to enjoy some fresh air.

I would also encourage you to wear a cloth mask or face covering
, consistent with CDC guidelines, in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as at grocery stores or pharmacies. Please use cloth face coverings and not surgical masks or N95 masks which are desperately needed by our health care workers and first responders. It’s also important to know that while cloth masks do help protect those around you, they should not be used as a replacement to social distancing or other protective measures such as washing your hands.

We stay at home for the Montanans in our rural communities and for our rural health care workers.

We are a state where there can be long distances to access care. It’s easy to look at the map of COVID-19 cases and see that many Central and Eastern Montana counties don’t yet have a positive case.

While this seems like a bright spot, an outbreak in a rural community could overrun a local healthcare facility. The distances between critical care access hospitals in Montana are far between. It is already difficult for our fellow rural Montanans to access care, and we ought not make those challenges more cumbersome.

And we stay at home so that we can more quickly rebuild our thriving economy. It is not a choice between a healthy population and a healthy economy. The two go hand in hand.

Managing this public health crisis now will help to prevent long-term consequences that could upend our economy for a longer duration and with a worse outcome.

I know this is an extremely challenging time for small businesses and workers alike. We continue to strive to do everything we can to help support those businesses and workers during this time.

I can’t stress enough that every step Montanans take now and in the following weeks will make all the difference in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and getting our economy back up and running. Thanks so much for everything you are doing to slow the spread of this virus and care for the members of your community.

You can view all my Directives that have been extended online at: https://covid19.mt.gov/joint-information-center

Sincerely,

STEVE BULLOCK
Governor

Governor Bullock Extends Directives Issued to Respond to COVID-19 Pandemic

By | April 8, 2020

Governor Bullock Extends Directives Issued to Respond to COVID-19 Pandemic

Directives Extended Through April 24 to Protect Montanans by Slowing the Spread of COVID-19

MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock today extended through April 24 Directives he issued to protect Montanans from COVID-19 by slowing the spread of the virus in Montana. The Directives were set to expire on April 10.

“We know that staying home will help to flatten the curve. For every person we take out of the chain of transmission of this virus, the more likely our health care facilities can handle the capacity to respond, and the more likely we can beat back this virus sooner rather than later,” Governor Bullock said. “We stay at home to ensure that our health care workers and first responders have adequate time to receive the supplies to keep them, their patients, and their families safe. We stay home to protect Montanans in our rural communities and our rural health care workers who face long distances to access care.”

“We also stay home so that we can more quickly rebuild to a thriving economy. It is not a choice between a healthy population and a healthy economy — the two go hand in hand. Managing this public health crisis now will help to prevent long-term consequences that could upend our economy for a longer duration and with a worse outcome,” continued Governor Bullock.

The extension covers the stay at home order, school closures, on-premises dining and beverage operations, eviction and foreclosure suspensions and the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for travelers coming into Montana for non-work-related travel.

Today’s Directive extends from April 10 through April 24th the following Directives:

  • Closing all non-residential public schools in Montana. Previous Directive issued March 15 and previously extended through April 10.
  • Closing certain on-premises dining and beverage businesses while expanding and encouraging delivery, takeout, and drive-up options. Previous Directiveissued March 24.
  • Extending the stay at home Directive except for certain essential activities, temporarily closing non-essential businesses, provided social distancing requirements, and limited non-essential travel. Previous Directive issued March 26.
  • Limiting evictions, foreclosures, and disconnections for the duration of the Stay at Home Directive. Previous Directive issued March 30.
  • Requiring a 14-day self-quarantine for individuals arriving in Montana for non-work-related travel. Previous Directive issued March 30, which followed Governor Bullock’s travel advisory on March 19th.

Other Directives issued or actions taken in response to the statewide emergency do not need to be extended as they will stay in effect for the duration of the emergency or even longer. Those actions include:designating childcare facilities as essential businesses, bolstering food security for Montana families, expanding telemedicine services to Medicaid patients, issuing emergency rules to make unemployment benefits accessible to workers laid off due to COVID-19, emergency loans for small businesses through the Small Business Administration, and calling for the census deadline to be extended until at least September 30.

Tap here to get a pdf of the Extension of Directives

Stay at Home to Save Lives

By | April 4, 2020

Thank you for your strength and compassion for our fellow Montanans during this time.

Right now, working together to fight this virus actually means staying separate.

Staying at home and taking even one Montanan out of the chain of transmission could be a life-saving act. For your neighbors, for your grandparents, for your friends. For our healthcare providers, our first responders, and our law enforcement.

We also know that approximately 10% of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Montana work in a healthcare setting. Staying at home means keeping our heroes on the frontline as healthy as possible. It means protecting those who are more at risk.

In addition to staying at home, always, always wash your hands.

These actions are absolutely critical in preventing the spread of the virus.

I recognize staying at home presents new challenges for our uniquely independent, uniquely Montana way of life. But we’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit – and it continues to thrive, even in these times.

We’ve seen manufacturing businesses and teachers with 3D printers making masks, and distilleries making hand sanitizer.

Montanans are also connecting with each other and with friends across the country over video and social media, hosting virtual game nights or taproom trivia and checking in frequently with loved ones.

We are making sure our craft brewery industry can still succeed by making use of curbside delivery. We are supporting our local restaurants with take out.

And we are getting that breath of fresh air that is much needed at this time. I encourage all Montanans to responsibly enjoy our public lands. That means following social distancing requirements by keeping at least six feet away from those outside your household when hiking, biking, running, or walking. Avoid crowded trailheads. And recreate near the communities you live.

We are lucky to live in a state with an abundance of spectacular, unspoiled nature right outside our backdoors.

We are also lucky to live in a place where our sense of community is strong. And I know have no doubt that it is stronger than ever before – because although we can’t actually join arms during this crisis, we recognize that the sacrifices made apart right now will ensure that our state remains together in the future.

I can’t stress enough that every step Montanans take now and in the following weeks will make all the difference in managing us through this crisis. Thanks so much for everything you are doing to play your part in slowing down the spread of this virus.

You can view all my Directives online at: https://covid19.mt.gov/joint-information-center

Sincerely,

STEVE BULLOCK
Governor

14-Day Quarantine for All Travelers from Another State or Country

By | March 31, 2020

Today I directed that all travelers coming into Montana from another state or country for non-work-related purposes must undergo a 14-day self-quarantine.

The Directive follows my previous travel advisory for those traveling internationally, and also advises vacation listings and rental sites to notify any out-of-state renters about the quarantine requirement.

Health care workers traveling to assist Montanans are excluded from the Directive.

My Directive applies both to Montana residents and non-residents entering the state for non-work-related purposes. It requires a self-quarantine for 14 days, or the duration of the traveler’s non-work trip to Montana.

Further, the Directive authorizes the Montana National Guard to conduct temperature checks at Montana airports and rail stations and screen for potential exposure history for travelers arriving in Montana from another state or country.

You can read my full Directive HERE.While we love our visitors, we would ask them not to come visit while Montanans are watching out for one another by staying at home. This is important not only to protect our health care system, but also to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

As of today, travel from another state or country is the most common known source of COVID-19 infections in Montana. I am asking anyone who is in Montana and has recently traveled from another state or country to do the right thing and self-quarantine for 14 day.

Thank you again for your comments to my office and your continued work to share important information with our Montana communities. Please continue to practice social distancing guidelines and stay at home unless it is essential.

My top priority is to protect the health and safety of all Montanans. I will continue to closely monitor the situation of cross-state travel as more information becomes available, and I will take any further action needed to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

Sincerely,

STEVE BULLOCK
Governor

Please Complete the 2020 Census. It’s Important!

By | March 31, 2020

Here’s a note from Representative Debo Powers…

As of today, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 31.6% of households in the country have responded to the Census.  Montana lags behind the national average with only 25.5% of households responding so far.  
That’s terrible! So why is completing the U.S. Census for your household so important? The results of the 2020 Census will help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding flow into communities every year for the next decade. That funding shapes many different aspects of every community, no matter the size, no matter the location. If the population of your community in particular and the state of Montana in general is under represented because folks didn’t fill out the 2020 Census, then we’re all going to miss out. For more information on why it’s so important that you complete the Census, tap here.
And there’s more! Census information first reported by The Wall Street Journal found that Montana’s population grew by nearly 80,000 between 2010 and 2019, leading analysts to predict that we would be among several to gain representatives in Congress upon completion of the Census. That’ won’t happen if you don’t fill out the 2020 Census and get counted!
The easiest way to respond to the Census is online at my2020census.gov.  
 
Please respond to the Census TODAY!  It only takes a few minutes online.
CORRECTION: NFNews said earlier that the deadline for the Census was April 1. That’s not the case. The Census will go through the summer.
Sorry about that. It’s still a good idea to get it done as soon as possible!

Grocery Delivery Service from the Polebridge Mercantile

By | March 30, 2020

Here’s a note from the Polebridge Mercantile. Great idea!

Hi Folks-

So we are definitely hearing some interest in a grocery delivery service from folks who dont want to fight the crazy Costco/super 1 crowds right now. We put our thinking cap on and here are details of the new service:

1). Orders must be placed by 6pm on each Monday.
2). Minimum order is $50. Groceries will be purchased and at Costco and Super 1. Please note on your list whether an item is a Costco or Super 1 item.
3). A 15 percent delivery fee will be added to the total of all orders. You will be provided a copy of the receipt when you pick up your order at the Merc. All receipts will be subtotaled by the cashier at the store.
4). Groceries must be picked up between 5 to 8 pm on Tuesday or 9 to 12 on Wednesday. We can meet you curbside if you prefer.
5). This service is limited to North Fork Residents only.
6). For Items that are currently being rationed at Costco, we may need to be purchase using Merc wholesale accounts. (Our price plus 15 percent)
7). To place your order 1). Call the Merc 406-888-5105. Or 2). take a photo of your list and Direct Message to Kateřina Vlčková.

Please call us or stop by if you have any questions. We hope this service will help. Please pass along this note to your neighbors.

Offer from the Whitefish Border Patrol

By | March 29, 2020

Here’s a note from the Whitefish Border Patrol via Bill Walker…

I hope everyone is well up at the North Fork. I imagine that most folks are hunkered down for the next couple weeks. I am certain that this ‘quarantine’ is no fun, even less for folks who live remote.  Our agents head up to the border there most every day. I am not sure how folks up there are handling things, but we would like to help if needed. If there are folks who need medicine picked up in town or food or most things, let us know. I would ask that they call and have it paid for and my guys can swing by and run it up to the community center or elsewhere. Also, if there are any folks who may need welfare checks, we can assist with that as well. Please let anyone up there who may want or require assistance to contact me or someone here at the station. Additionally, if there is anyone who you think we should reach out to, let us know.

You guys have always been good friends and neighbors.

Thank you

Scott

SBPA Scott Ernsberger
Whitefish Border Patrol Station
Spokane Sector
Ofc: (406) 862-2561
Cell: (406) 224-1691

Stay at Home Directive Issued to Slow the Spread of COVID-19

By | March 29, 2020

Today I today issued a Directive requiring Montanans to stay home and temporarily closes all nonessential businesses and operations to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 28 and will buy us time for health care workers on the frontlines to limit long term impacts to the state’s economy.

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.

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.

The Directive will be in effect through Friday, April 10 and requires all businesses and operations in Montana, except for essential businesses and operations as defined in the Directive, to stop all activities within the state.

Businesses with questions can contact a dedicated state line at 1-800-755-6672 and leave messages 24-hours a day and will receive a prompt response.

The Directive also prohibits all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a household or place of residence.

Essential services and businesses will remain operational and open. Businesses deemed essential are required to comply with social distancing guidelines when possible including maintaining six feet of distance, having sanitizing products available, and designating hours of operation specifically for vulnerable populations.

Under the Directive, Montanans may leave their homes for essential activities, including:

  • For health and safety. To engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets), such as seeking emergency services, obtaining medical supplies or medication, or visiting a health care professional.
  • For necessary supplies and services. To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others, such as groceries and food, household consumer products, supplies they need to work from home, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.
  • For outdoor activity. To engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with social distancing, such as walking, hiking, running, or biking. Individuals may go to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas, including public lands in Montana provided they remain open to recreation. Montanans are discouraged from outdoor recreation activities that pose enhanced risks of injury or could otherwise stress the ability of local first responders to address the COVID-19 emergency (e.g., backcountry skiing in a manner inconsistent with avalanche recommendations or in closed terrain).
  • For certain types of work. To perform work providing essential products and services at Essential Businesses or Operations or to otherwise carry out activities specifically permitted in this Directive, including Minimum Basic Operations.
  • To take care of others. To care for a family member, friend, or pet in another household, and to transport family members, friends, or pets as allowed by this Directive.

You can read my full Directive HERE.

My Directive follows federal guidance to determine the businesses and operations deemed essential, which are summarized in the Directive and can also be found here: https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce.

For the most up to date information on COVID-19 please go to: https://covid19.mt.gov/

As Montanans, we have an obligation to slow the spread of this virus. Our fellow Montanans are counting on all of us to follow these stay at home measures and save lives.

Thank you again for your comments to my office and for sharing this information with others in your community. We must take COVID-19 seriously, and we must take the measures now to flatten the curve and give our front-line healthcare workers the ability to fight this disease.

Working together, we can save the lives of our fellow Montanans and our economy from long-term impacts.

Sincerely,

STEVE BULLOCK
Governor