While the state has seen a recent increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases, Gov. Steve Bullock's phased reopening plan is still on schedule. Phase 2 began June 1 and several state and local directives have been issued to address developing situation.
Here is a basic guide of what's open, closed or restricted in Montana as of June 29, 2020.
Phase 2 relaxes some restrictions while lifting others. People should avoid gathering in groups of more than 50 when appropriate physical distancing is not possible. Gatherings of any size should continue practicing physical distancing. Vulnerable individuals are still encouraged to follow stay-at-home guidance.
Businesses can remain open but must adhere to physical distancing. That applies to places of assembly such as live music venues and bowling alleys, which can now reopen with reduced capacities. These places are to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people.
Employers should continue encouraging telework. If it’s not feasible, they should follow Phase 1 guidance. That includes accommodating alternate work schedules, closing common areas and minimizing non-essential business travel. Special accommodations should be made for members of a vulnerable population, or for those living with such individuals.
Tourists: The travel quarantine for non-work-related arrivals expired June 1. However, the Montana National Guard will still be authorized to assess travelers in airports and train depots.The state’s tourism communities will undergo a robust public health plan. This will include testing of employees and the surging of additional PPE to impacted health care systems.
It's important to note localities may have additional unique restrictions. Big Horn County requires residents to wear masks or face coverings outside the home.
Additionally some of Montana’s tribal governments have their own stay-at-home orders. Montanans and travelers alike should be aware of and respect the travel restrictions instituted by each unique tribal governments.
For example, the confirmation of the Blackfeet Reservation's first COVID-19 cases prompted the tribe to issue a 14 day shelter-in-place order that took effect on June 27. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council placed additional limitations on gatherings and venues.
The order is the Blackfeet Nation's latest effort to protect its members and vulnerable population from the novel coronavirus.
Here’s what statewide closures and restrictions are in place under Phase 2:
• Gov. Bullock issued a directive allowing visitors at nursing homes and assisted living facilities on June 25.
• Outdoor recreation, and outdoor recreation sites, also continue under Phase 1 guidance. Sites can become operational if they adhere to strict physical distancing between groups and exercise frequent sanitation protocols if public facilities are open (most have).
• Child care facilities can increase capacity if physical distancing guidelines can be implemented.
• Restaurants / bars / breweries / distilleries / casinos, gyms / pools / hot tubs, and movie theaters remain under Phase 1, but will increase in capacity from 50% to 75%. Operationally this means strict physical distancing. Bars, restaurants and casinos must remove all customers by 11:30 p.m.
National forest lands remain open, but some services are still limited.
“At this time, the Forest Service continues to remain open and operational, and we are committed to the continuity of our mission. Our primary delivery of public service will occur through virtual means (ie. telephone and online service).”
The agency also has a COVID-19 FAQ. When campgrounds and developed recreation sites reopen varied between forests, and several still have one or two sites still closed. Follow the links below for more information on specific national forests:
• Bitterroot National Forest: All but one site, the Medicine Point Lookout, have reopened. Staff are still operating remotely according to the Forest's website.
• Custer-Gallatin National Forest: All sites should be reopened from the pandemic closure. High elevation snow and snowmelt have made access another matter. The Custer-Gallatin’s Facebook page is a good source for the lastes updates on road and trail conditions.
• Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest: According to the website's latest update, most Forest campgrounds and rental facilities like cabins should be open
The Forest's Facebook page posts more recent updates, but most of the latest posts are focused on the Lump Gulch Fire.
• Kootenai National Forest: All cabin and recreation sites are now open, although offices are still closed as staff work remotely. Visitors are encouraged to visit the Forest’s recreation update page and Facebook page for the latest updates.
• Lolo National Forest: According to this list of opening dates on the Forest's website, all sites should be open with the exception of the Pattee Canyon Group Picnic area, which is set to reopen Aug. 1.
National parks in Montana are following individualized plans:
The most notable changes were:
• The west gate no longer closes at 4:30 p.m.
• Camas Road is open, meaning the North Fork portion of the park is now open. The area's trails are day use only, campgrounds are closed and the waters of Bowman and Kintla lakes are closed to aquatic traffic.
• Going-to-the-Sun Road is open Avalanche.
• Apgar's Village Inn Hotel and Lake McDonald Lodge are open to overnight guests only. This means the Lodge's lobby and restrooms are closed to day use visitors.
• Apgar's Lake McDonald Campstore has reopened.
For more informations on the Glacier's current reopening phase, check out the Park's latest press release.
The eastern gates are currently closed for the season. A June 25 resolution from the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council closed off all access roads to the Glacier's eastern border for the rest of the tourist season.
Some of the park services including campgrounds and visitor centers are still set to open later in the season, while others like the park shuttle won't be available at all. Per the park's phased reopening:
“This plan articulates the phased reopening sequence that is focused on protecting the park employees, volunteers, partners, and the public. Visitor service operations will start conservatively and will expand if conditions allow, or contract if necessary. There will be fewer staff and services available in the park in 2020.”
For the lastest updates, park officials recommend checking the park's website.
Visitors should come prepared, and should follow all CDC and local health guidance by practicing good hygiene and social distancing. Face coverings are recommended where social distancing is not possible. People who are sick should stay home and not visit the park. The CDC has provided specific guidance on visiting parks and recreational facilities.
• Yellowstone National Park began a partial reopening on May 18, allowing visitors to enter through its Wyoming gates. The Montana entrances near West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cooke City opened June 1.
All of this is in accordance with the Park's phased reopening plan, which dicatates visitors will have limited access to some services and the park overall will remain day-use only. Visitor centers and campgrounds are currently closed. Check out the Park's news releases for the latest updates.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks offices and visitor centers opened June 3 in accordance with Phase 2 of Montana's phased reopening. As explained in its latest COVID-19 Facebook post:
"FWP offices have been closed since late March due to Montana’s COVID-19 pandemic response. As the public returns, strict adherence to Phase 2 guidelines will be critical: stay at home if you feel sick, make sure to frequently wash and sanitize your hands, and maintain at least six feet of distance from other people.
FWP front offices around the state will be set up to help facilitate these simple guidelines, including marking floors to help keep people spaced out, providing hand sanitizer for customers, and glass dividers between front counter staff and customers.
Please note that many FWP employees are still working remotely, so for business beyond front desk license purchases and other related information, please plan to reach out to the appropriate staff member directly by phone or email or ask front desk staff for contact information."
FWP posts continues to post updates on its "COVID-19 Response and Update" page.