Gov. Steve Bullock announced Tuesday he’s extending closures until April 10 for public schools as well as bars, dine-in restaurants, and other social gathering places, in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Montana. Those closures were originally set to expire Friday. Bullock is also imposing new rules on other retail businesses.
Bullock is now prohibiting non-essential gatherings of 10 or more people outside of homes if social distancing can’t take place. Bullock is also directing retail stores to implement social distancing protocols that will keep customers at least six feet apart, though grocery stores, health care, medical, or pharmacy services are exempt.
That and other recent state directives in response to COVID-19 can be enforced by county attorneys, something Bullock said he made clear in his latest emergency orders.
Bullock also extended K-12 public school and other closures.
Bullock followed his initial closure order earlier this month with guidance for school districts to plan out how they will provide remote learning for students and other services. Those plans will need to be in place and approved by local school board by the end of this week in order to maintain state funding through April 10 or if closures are extended past that date.
Bullock said he decided against closing schools for the rest of the year because it’s hard to know what the future holds.
"I don’t think it would be wise or serve the best interest of Montanans at this time to make decisions that will have finality for what Montana might look like eight or 10 weeks down the road."
Bullock noted that school and other closures could be extended, and he expects the number of coronavirus cases in the state to rise.