Montana COVID FAQs, Frequently Asked Questions for Montana COVID

Current Reopening Phase: Phase 2

Governor has Declared a State of Emergency, Read Declaration

Directive on Implementing and Establishing Phase 2 of Reopening, Read Directive

Reopening Montana Phase 2, Read Plan

Montana COVID FAQs

A list of frequently asked questions and answers related to COVID-19.

Updated 6/25/2020


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NOTE: The Governor’s directives can be supplemented by more restrictive local measures put in to place by county authorities. To ensure you are getting the best information regarding the local situation, please reach out to the county health department or local law enforcement regarding how the order is taking effect in that community. 

This guide was created to provide quick highlights on changes between Reopening Phase 1 and Phase 2. For more in-depth information on each topic, see the additional Montana COVID FAQs sections below. 

 

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Is Montana going to require the public to wear masks to prevent more cases?

At this time, wearing a mask is strongly recommended in public settings. The CDC also recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.


With the phased reopening, do officials worry about upticks in COVID-19 cases?

Yes. With widespread testing and testing of close-contact cases (contact tracing), we expect to see new cases. As the Governor stated in this June 11 press conference, these cases serve as a reminder that we cannot get complacent and that if unchecked, this virus can spread quickly and quietly. In Montana, local and tribal public health are working carefully to perform contact tracing to get exposed individuals into quarantine and eliminate chains of transmission to keep the virus under control.


Is it possible that instead of moving to Phase 3, we may move back to Phase 1 if Montana sees more cases?

The phased re-opening approach is data-dependent. The Governor’s Office is waiting to see the impact of Phase 2 before considering next steps forward.


When will Phase 3 start? 

The phased re-opening approach is data-dependent, meaning that the data from the previous phase dictates when the next phase will be possible. The Governor’s Office is waiting to see the impact of Phase 2 before considering a date for Phase 3.

 

Won't allowing out-of-staters into Montana lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases?

Montana is slowly opening to visitors and the health and safety of our citizens and visitors is top priority. In the state, we are currently focusing on providing COVID-19 testing (Community Screenshot Testing) to tourism communities. To protect the health and safety of Montanans and travelers to our state, some services and destinations may be limited. The Montana National Guard may still conduct temperature checks, assess individuals for COVID-19 symptoms, and inquire about exposure history of travelers arriving in Montana from another state or country through air or rail travel.

Can senior centers open during Phase 2?

The Phase Two directive recommends vulnerable individuals such as senior citizens continue to adhere to the stay-at-home guidance. If a local senior center chooses to open in Phase Two, they should consult with their local public health officials to develop a plan that ensures proper social distancing and sanitation guidelines.  An Incident response plan for cleaning and sanitizing regarding a positive COVID-19 case should be created prior to opening.


Should patrons/workers be screened before coming into the senior center?

Patrons' and workers' forehead temperatures should be taken with infrared thermometers before entering the facility and/or screen for symptoms (more than 100°F suggests possible fever). Patrons with fever, shortness of breath, a cough, or other COVID-19 symptoms must refrain from using the facility


Can food be served at senior centers during Phase 2?

Yes, however:

  • Designate specific dining times for patrons with underlying health conditions only, where fewer seats are available and more than 6 feet can be maintained
  • A specific cleaning plan should be implemented with employees trained in proper sanitation practices. Please consider using the guidance document: FACILITY PLAN FOR CLEANING, SANITIZING & DISINFECTING. This document can be found at https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/fcss.
  • Centers must provide for 6 feet of physical distancing between groups and tables by:
  • Only allow 6 seats per table
  • All surfaces must be cleaned between patrons, including tables and chairs
  • Drinks and food must be served to patrons at a table; no self-service buffets
  • Table items including condiments, menus, napkins, and décor should be removed from tables unless they can be adequately cleaned between patrons
  • Single use utensils are recommended when possible
  • Reusable items must be cleaned before and after each use
  • Signage should be posted with the following or substantially similar wording: “Members with fever, shortness of breath, a cough, or other COVID-19 symptoms must refrain from using this facility” and “maintain 6 feet distance between people”
  • Increasing table spacing, removing tables, or marking tables as closed, or
  • Providing a physical barrier between tables


What guidelines do patrons at senior centers need to follow?

  • Testing centers are now available for voluntary testing, we recommend all employees and patrons get tested when possible 
  • Maintain 6 feet distance between other patrons and workers
  • Wear face mask when possible
  • Sanitation and hygiene procedures
  • COVID-19 symptom awareness


What guidelines do workers at senior centers need to follow?

Testing centers are now available for voluntary testing, we recommend all employees and patrons get tested when possible. Furthermore, workers should be trained to:

•Minimize contact time with patrons when possible

•Wear face mask when possible

•Wash hands when contaminated or suspect of contamination

  • Follow normal use and disposal procedures for single-use gloves
  • Stay home if ill

•Report illness symptoms to supervisor

Vulnerable Individuals/Populations: people over 65 years of age, people with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, or asthma, and people whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer or other conditions requiring such therapy. [April 22 Directive for Phase 1, page 4] 

Places of Assembly: A building (excluding dwelling units) or outdoor space, or portion thereof, in which persons may gather that require individuals to be in close proximity to each other and lack the ability to easily adapt to required social distancing and sanitation practices before each individual use.  [Phase 1 FAQs] 

***Guidelines from bars beginning Friday June 5, 2020***


 

Is bar seating open during phase 2?

Yes, but there is no bar seating within 6 feet of a well or taps, an area where drinks are passed to servers, ice machines, or other areas used to prepare or serve food or beverages. Patrons should maintain 6 feet of social distancing, shared/community items should be eliminated and commonly touched surfaces should be frequently cleaned/disinfected.

 

Is restaurant counter seating "bar seating"?

Yes, these guidelines apply to for bar seating in restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and bars

 

Are there specific guidelines for poker rooms?

Beginning Friday June 5, 2020 poker rooms are allowed in Phase 2 with the same goals of the bar seating with the following specifications:

1) Poker rooms must require everyone to sanitize their hands upon entering or reentering the card room

2) Limit the number of available seats to six players in order to create some spacing between them

3) Players will verbalize all bets and the dealer will physically handle all chip transactions

4) All poker staff will wear masks, poker staff will sanitize and or wash hands in between each cash transaction

5) Poker staff will sanitize tables, chairs, chips and cards with disinfectant products every day and they will use steam for the fabric on the chairs and the vinyl covering on the tables


What is the required closure time for bar seating?

The required time of closure for bar seating in restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and bars during Phase 2 is extended from 11:30PM to 12:30AM.  


Why is there an earlier closing time than 2 a.m. for bars?

The 12:30 a.m. closing time is to protect public health and lessen the spread of the virus.  The recommendation for an earlier closing time before 2 a.m. was suggested by both health officials and industry representatives when the Montana reopening plan was developed in late April.  In Phase 2, the closing time was extended from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. 


What are the social distancing guidelines for bar seating?

Bars stools should be spaced 6 feet apart. If a group of 6 or less comes in and requests to be seated together, a staff member can group seat together and then re-space to 6ft once the group leaves.


Is standing at the bar allowed?

All patrons should have a place to sit; no standing and mingling is allowed at the bar or elsewhere.


What if 6 feet cannot be maintained between patrons and servers/staff using well areas or taps?

A physical barrier or closing wells may be used to protect servers/staff but the barrier must be at least 36 inches high and offer enough protection to prevent employee exposure to droplets from anyone seated within 6 feet of either side of the serving area.

Wells taken out of use should be marked with a sign to remind staff.

 

Can patrons order "to-go" at a bar/order alcohol at concession stands?

There may be a designated area at the bar, away from other customers, wells, taps, prep-stations where patrons may place and receive orders. Six feet of social distancing should be maintained by all patrons of separate parties and only one customer may use this space at a time. Patrons may grab their drink or order and then return to their seats. (See above if 6ft cannot be maintained.)


Can bars offer "shake-a-day"?

No shake-a-day unless dice and cup can be disinfected in-between patrons.

 

What are the phase 2 sanitary guidelines for bar areas?

Bar stools and counter space just be disinfected between patrons; no reusing drink coasters unless they can be disinfected between patrons and no refilling glasses, new glass is needed for each order; no community items included peanuts or other foods unless they can be served in individual containers.

Can public swimming pools open?

Yes, all public swimming pools (pools, spas, hot springs, water parks, competition pools, etc.) can open but must follow the standards for healthy behaviors and a healthy environment (see information on these practices under the question "what are the healthy behaviors and healthy environment guidelines pools must follow?")

 

Do people have to social distance in pools and are their occupancy guidelines?

Yes, occupancy cannot exceed 75 percent capacity of normal bather load. Patrons must observe social distancing requirements (6 foot spacing between unassociated patrons (i.e. not family members) and 6 foot spacing between groups of no more than 50).

The facility must reduce their total occupancy if they are unable to observe these social distancing requirements.

 

Can youth swim classes resume?

Yes, as long as the group size is no larger than 50 swimmers and social distancing is maintained between groups, during classes, drop off, and pickup.

 

What are the healthy behavior, environment and operation guidelines pools must follow?

Healthy Behaviors

  • Encourage all staff and patrons to wash their hands often and to cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Encourage the use of cloth face coverings when not able to practice social distancing.
    • Do not wear cloth face coverings when in the water or humid environments as it can make breathing difficult!
  • Educate staff and patrons on the symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Post signs with the following, or substantially similar, language at all entrances to the facility.
    • “People with fever, shortness of breath, a cough, or other COVID-19 symptoms must refrain from using this facility.”
    • “Observe social distancing in this facility.  No loitering in common areas.”
  • Ensure adequate amounts of soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, tissues, and no-touch trash cans are available.

 

Healthy Environment

  • Develop procedures to identify and separate used furniture and equipment from clean. Examples include:
    • Labeled bins for used pools toys and floats that need to be disinfected before use by another person.
    • Monitor deck furniture to clean between users.
  • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of all disinfectants.
  • Ensure indoor ventilation systems are operating efficiently and providing adequate air exchange.
  • Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible.
  • Survey facility water systems to ensure they are safe.  Long shut downs could require taking steps to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease.
  • Use physical barriers or visible cues to provide areas that facilitate a 6 foot separation between patrons. Examples include:
    • Lane markers, or floating lane lines to separate pool areas
    • Separation of deck tables and lounge chairs
    • Tape on the deck and sidewalks to designate waiting areas, or staging zones.
    • Mark stairs and walkways with directional arrows for incoming and outgoing traffic
  • Monitor use of shared community spaces like locker rooms to avoid crowding and facilitate separation
  • Discourage the sharing of items such as food, equipment and toys that cannot easily be disinfected between users.

 

Healthy Operations

  • Front desk/gate attendant must track occupancy, incoming and outgoing to ensure maximum occupancy does not exceed 75 percent capacity of normal bather load;
  • Patrons must observe social distancing requirements.
    • 6 foot spacing between unassociated patrons (i.e. not family members);
    • 6 foot spacing between groups of no more than 50.
  • The facility must reduce their total occupancy if they are unable to observe these social distancing requirements.
  • Educate staff on the symptoms of COVID-19 and advise them to stay home when ill.
  • Conduct health assessments of all staff as they come on shift.
  • Lifeguards that are actively lifeguarding must not be expected to monitor handwashing, use of cloth face coverings, or social distancing of others. 
  • Follow certification agency recommendations for lifeguard rescues, and first aid during the pandemic.
  • Youth swim classes
    • Group size no larger than 50 swimmers;
    • Social distancing facilitated between groups, during classes, drop off, and pickup.

 

Where can I find more information?

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/parks-rec/aquatic-venues.html


Can lap swimmers pass closer than 6 feet from each other in neighboring lanes?  

Yes, swimmers can pass closer than 6 feet from each other in neighboring lanes.


I'm unsure if my facility is covered in the pool guidance--what guidance should I follow?

The guidance for pools is in the updated Appendix B of the Governor's directive. The guidance applied to all facilities licensed as a pool or spa in the state.

What are the social distancing requirements at camps?

It is recommended that Camps keep individuals in groups of 10. The same 10 people should be with each other every day. Children within the group of 10 do not need to maintain social distance from each other. They can have closer contact for activities such as sports. However, groups of 10 should remain socially distanced from other groups of 10.


Is there a capacity cap for camps?

Camps may exceed a max of 50 people so long as they coordinate with their local health jurisdiction to ensure appropriate social distancing. That number includes campers and the employees that have contact with those campers, such as counselors. It does not include employees that do not interact with campers, such as maintenance.


Do campers/employees need to wear face coverings at all times?

Although they are strongly recommended, camps may choose not to require face coverings. It may not be reasonable to expect small children to keep them in place, or for any children to wear them during rigorous physical activity.


What do I need to do before opening a camp?

Camps need to contact their County Health Department to develop a plan for reporting, testing (if someone develops symptoms), and contact tracing. Each camp must develop a cleaning and sanitizing protocol


What information should we provide to campers/employees about COVID-19 prior to coming to camp? 

  • Campers and employees should be reminded not to attend if:
  • Campers and employees should receive a list of COVID-19 symptoms along with instructions to report any symptoms as soon as they appear. (Instructions should include information on who they need to report to at the camp.)
    • they have tested positive for COVID
    • if they are showing any symptoms
    • if they have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive
    • have been told to quarantine for any reason
    • or are awaiting test results.


What protocols need to be followed by campers/employees once they arrive at camp?

  • Both employees and campers should complete a health questionnaire and have a temperature check.
    • Anyone with a temp greater than 100.0 must be sent home.
    • Overnight Camps do not have to fill out a questionnaire each day. However, any campers that attend functions outside of camp (such as going to a public swimming pool) should complete a new questionnaire and temperature check.
    • Day Camps should fill out a new health questionnaire and perform a temperature check at the beginning of camp each day.


What happens if a camper/staffer contracts COVID-19?

Anyone who in contact with that camper/staff would need to be quarantined immediately pending the results of the test. Camps should prepare for both short-term or extended closures in the case of a positive COVID case.

I am getting married and have more than 50 people invited to my wedding. Do I need to reduce the number/cancel it? 

As of June 1, groups greater than 50 are not advised. However, if you are planning an event with more than 50 people you should consult with your local public health office on a plan to implement adequate social distancing. Event cutoff threshold is at the discretion of community leadership based on current circumstances in that community (see Phase 2 Directive, page 4) 


Do events that take place using bar/restaurant outdoor facilities such as patios, volleyball courts, etc. but not within the bar/restaurant count against the capacity limit of the venues?

Yes. Patrons using outdoor facilities will count against the 75% capacity limits of the venue during Phase 2. Venues that wish to expand their outdoor capacity for special events such as tournaments, celebrations and other functions should consult with their local health office to work out a plan for how to maintain social distancing and enhanced cleaning procedures.


Are rodeos and fairs cancelled?

At this time, rodeos and fairs must follow the same guidance as all large gatherings. However, local authorities may impose more restrictive measures than the directive.

Are visitations allowed in senior and assisted living facilities?

Yes. Montanans requiring care in senior and assisted living facilities have access to limited visitation, subject to stringent safety and health measures. 

As stated in the Governor's Directive from June 25, senior and assisted living facilities may allow visitors after giving notice of the recommended safeguards to residents and family members. 

  • Visitation should be conducted in accordance with the strict screening, physical distancing, sanitation, hygiene, and other infection control protocols set forth in the CMS and CDC guidance applicable to nursing homes. 
  • Before permitting visitation, facilities should review the applicable CDC and CMS guidance and ensure that they are able to follow the recommendations contained therein.

For more information, the CMS Toolkit on State Actions to Mitigate COVID-19 Prevalence in Nursing Homes ​can be found here.

 

NOTE: The Governor’s directives can be supplemented by more restrictive local measures put in to place by county authorities. To ensure you are getting the best information regarding the local situation, please reach out to the county health department or local law enforcement regarding how the order is taking effect in that community. 

If I travel outside of Montana for any reason, do I need to quarantine upon return to Montana? (residents) 

No. As of June 1, the provisions of the March 30 Directive requiring quarantine for nonwork-related arrivals in Montana is no longer in effect (see Phase 2 Directive, page 5). 

 

If I want to vacation or otherwise travel into Montana, am I subject to a quarantine period or other restrictions? (non-residents) 

No. As of June 1, the provisions of the March 30 Directive requiring quarantine for nonwork-related arrivals in Montana is no longer in effect (see Phase 2 Directive, page 5). 

 

Can visitor centers reopen? 
Visitor centers can open in Phase 2, with reduced capacity of 75%, strict adherence to physical distancing guidance and following CDC sanitation protocols 

Are measures still in place to limit foreclosures, evictions, and disconnections from service? 

No, unless you are a member of a vulnerable population, who has suffered a significant 
financial hardship as a result of the outbreak AND remain sheltered at home. In this case, the protections of the March 30 and April 13 Directives continue and will expire 30 days after the individual ceases to shelter at home or at the end of the emergency, whichever is sooner. 

 

How do I prove I am a member of a vulnerable population to prevent foreclosure, eviction or disconnection? 
An individual who seeks the protection of these provisions to prevent a foreclosure, eviction, or 
disconnection after June 1 must make a basic showing to their bank, landlord, or utility that they: 


(1) are sheltering in place under this order,  and 

(2) are a member of a vulnerable population, and 

(3) have been financially impacted as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.   

 

What rules do I have to follow to evict my tenant if they are a member of a vulnerable population? 

Before moving forward with an eviction, foreclosure, or disconnection against an individual who 
is a member of a vulnerable population, the entity initiating the eviction, foreclosure, or 
disconnection must provide adequate notice of the opportunity to seek the protection of this 
Directive by making the showing described above.   

 

can’t pay my rent/mortgage. Is there any help for this? 

The rent and mortgage assistance program established in the April 13 Directive remains in effect for the duration of the emergency. The program will provide rent, security deposit, mortgage payment, and/ or hazard insurance assistance as-needed for Montanans who have lost a job or substantial income loss because of COVID-19.  

 

How can I apply for rental assistance? 

Interested individuals may apply at https://commerce.mt.gov/Coronavirus-Relief

 

Where can I get more information? 

Phase 2 Directive, page 3. 

I am in the high-risk / vulnerable category. Do I have to return to work? 

Vulnerable individuals should continue to adhere to the stay-at-home guidance. 

 

Where can I get more information? 

Phase 2 Directive, page 4. 

Where can I find information about the relief grants? 

For information regarding the various grant programs, including qualifications and uses, visit https://covidrelief.mt.gov.   

How do I apply for the relief grants? 

To apply for any of the relief grants, visit https://covidrelief.mt.gov, and click the “Click Here to Apply” button toward the middle of the page. 

I applied for a relief grant, but haven’t heard anything back. What should I do? 

There has been an overwhelming response to the grant programs and staff are working around the clock trying to review and evaluate those applications. If you are concerned, you can send an email inquiry to reliefapps.covid@mt.gov, and someone will get in touch with you.