Gov. Steve Bullock on Nov. 17 announced new public health measures to limit capacity in bars, restaurants, breweries, distilleries and casinos, to limit public gatherings to 25 individuals where social distancing is not possible, and to require face coverings in all counties regardless of case count beginning on Friday, Nov. 20, to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Montana, according to a news release from the governor's office. 

Bullock also announced he would direct unspent Coronavirus Relief Funds to aid businesses impacted by the restrictions and provide $200 a week in additional unemployment benefits to Montanans for four weeks.

“We must find a way to make it through these coming winter months. We need all Montanans to recognize that there is widespread community transmission, and your risk of becoming infected with the virus increases the more you engage in gatherings of any kind,” Bullock said. “We all have to collectively recognize that this virus won’t stop spreading through our communities on its own. If we come together and follow the restrictions, we can curb some of the spread we are seeing.”

Bullock’s directive places new restrictions to limit gatherings as cases in Montana and across the nation have spiked over the last several weeks. Restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and casinos can operate at a maximum of 50% capacity and can close no later than 10 p.m. Tables will be limited to six people per table and establishments are still required to maintain social distancing.

Bullock’s directive also modifies the requirements described in the July 15 directive providing for the mandatory use of face coverings in certain settings and the Aug. 12 directive providing for the mandatory use of face coverings in all K-12 schools to apply in all counties statewide, whether a county has identified four active cases.

Public gatherings will be limited to 25 individuals where social distancing is not possible or observed. The directive exempts places of worship which remain subject to the 50-person limit provided in phase two where social distancing can be maintained. Leaders are encouraged to ensure social distancing and encourage virtual services where possible. The directive does not alter current requirements for schools.

Bullock also strongly encouraged Montanans to limit their involvement of any private in-person gatherings of 15 or more people, as private social gatherings are a significant contributor to the spread of the virus.

To support businesses impacted by restrictions, the governor will be providing another round of the Business Stabilization Grants to the existing businesses that have been vetted through the process and have received prior funding. A total of $75 million will be available to businesses. Businesses who have already received Business Stabilization Grants will receive an email inviting them to accept a third round of funding. To be eligible for funding, businesses must agree to comply with all state and local COVID-19 orders including requiring masks, social distancing, capacity and closing time restrictions.

Bullock will also provide $25 million to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry to provide eligible Montanans who are unemployed or partially unemployed because of COVID-19 disruptions with a supplemental payment of $200 a week for four weeks beginning on the week ending Nov. 28 and ending Dec. 19. To receive this support, eligible recipients do not need to apply separately. Individuals will receive the benefit if they keep filing their regular payment requests in montanaworks.gov or mtpua.mt.gov.