On Monday, June 1, the state of Montana will enter the second phase of Gov. Steve Bullock’s plan to reopen the state, gradually lifting restrictions he imposed in March and April to slow or stop the spread of the dangerous viral illness COVID-19. In stage two, bars, restaurants, casinos and other “group” businesses will be able to expand their capacity to 75% of what their buildings will hold (up from 50%). Swimming pools, hot tubs, bowling alleys and other places of gathering will be able to open with new restrictions on capacity and sanitation. Group gatherings with up to 50 participants will be allowed, and the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors will be lifted.
The state enters Phase II when new infections are slowing greatly and infectious individuals (with symptoms) can be contact traced to help prevent a sharp uptick in cases.
Teton County citizens remain very, very lucky. There have been no conﬁrmed cases of COVID-19 here. The retirement apartments, assisted living facilities and nursing home have all been spared, so far, the agony of this viral illness getting into their vulnerable population.
As the state continues to lift restrictions on gatherings, travelers and business operations, everyone needs to remember that just because the exponential infection curve has been ﬂattened or even reduced doesn’t mean the virus has gone anywhere. It’s still active worldwide, and there have been cases in 30 of Montana’s 56 counties. What that means is that the state and the country aren’t out of the woods yet. All it would take is one infectious person to spark illness in this county.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to urge Americans to take precautions. Those who are in the high-risk group for life threatening complications (people 65 and older or those with underlying chronic medical conditions) should continue to shelter at home and to avoid large groups.
Everyone should continue to use social distancing — staying at least six feet away from others — and when going out in public (particularly in areas where it is difﬁcult to practice social distancing) wear a cloth face mask. The CDC says wearing a cloth face mask can help you from inadvertently infecting others, especially if you have caught the disease but haven’t developed symptoms.
And just to ratchet the stress level about COVID-19 down a few levels, let’s all be kind to one another. The politicians in Washington, D.C., can’t seem to stop themselves from politicizing a viral illness, but at the grassroots level there is no reason why sanity cannot prevail and people cannot be tolerant and supportive of their friends and neighbors — whether they agree with them politically or are polar opposites.
So, let’s dial back the drama, and dial up the kindness. Let’s stop calling each other names. Let’s agree to disagree on politics, and then and many other things on which we can agree. Let’s celebrate all that is good and right in our communities, rather than beating a drum of despair about where our country is going. Let’s all try to walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes before we start judging his or her beliefs. So please, enjoy the start of Phase II, but be cautious, be kind, be thoughtful and be tolerant of everyone’s different thoughts and beliefs.