Businesses, Politicians Change Plans After Multiple In-State Cases Of COVID-19

Mar 16, 2020

From postponed concerts to virtual campaign events, businesses and politicians across Montana are changing plans after detections of multiple in-state cases of the novel coronavirus.

Some businesses are following public health officials' recommendations to limit crowd sizes in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 by cancelling events or temporarily closing.

Logjam Presents, Montana’s largest entertainment and production company, announced Saturday it would postpone all live events at the Rialto in Bozeman and the Wilma and Top Hat in Missoula for the next 30 days. The website said ticket holders for events during this time are encouraged to hold onto their tickets since they will be honored for the rescheduled dates. Refunds are also available.

Big Sky and Whitefish Mountain resorts and Bridger Bowl Ski Area Sunday announced they would end the ski season prematurely. Red Lodge Mountain is suspending operations for a week. In Browning, Glacier Peaks Casino and Little Peaks Casino have temporarily closed for two weeks.

Big department stores are also responding. REI closed its 162 retail stores for two weeks. Employees will be paid, and shoppers will receive free shipping during the temporary closure.

The Walmart in Great Falls has reduced its hours of operation; the Target and Rosauers in Missoula have started limiting the number of toilet paper, face and baby wipes, hand sanitizer and paper towels customers can buy.

Some local businesses are now offering new services to reduce in-person contact.

Country Bookshelf, a book store in Bozeman, announced free doorstep delivery to residents and a central drop-off point 2-to-3 times a week in Livingston. The store cancelled the last author event in March but said it would continue book clubs as of Saturday.

NorthWestern Energy is closing its walk-in customer service centers. It’s also keeping the lights on for people facing disconnections due to nonpayments. The utility said it’s closing Customer Service Centers for walk-ins and encouraging customers to use the online payment systems.

The Montana Department of Corrections has suspended visitation, as have some nursing homes. The Montana Supreme Court will use video and telephone conferencing as much as possible. State government groups are canceling meetings and advising staff to work from home. Courts across the state have been asked to minimize foot traffic and excuse jury members considered high or medium risk to be excused from duty.

Several people running for state office have also suspended public events for March, including Democratic gubernatorial candidates Whitney Williams and Mike Cooney. As of Sunday afternoon, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Fox’s meet-and-greet in Hamilton set for this Wednesday had not been cancelled on Facebook.

Neither were events for Democratic senatorial candidate John Mues. Democratic congressional candidates Tom Winter and Kathleen Williams have opted for tele-campaigning.