Gov. Steve Bullock and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester held a Facebook Live Q&A on Wednesday, May 20 to answer questions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic from Montanans who have been affected by the crisis.

It was announced on Tuesday, May 19 that as of June 1, Montana will be moving into phase two of the reopening of the state under the directive by Gov. Bullock.

“The steps that were taken early have made it so that the spread of this virus has been much slower than it otherwise would have been,” Tester said. “It has allowed Governor Bullock to make decisions on our economy that puts us in much better shape than just about any other state. So, I give big kudos to the governor because of the early and decisive actions, actions that were based on science and advice from public health experts and not politics.”

Montana has the lowest number of coronavirus cases per capita in the country. Both Tester and Bullock said the crisis isn’t over, and more things need to be done.

“The response in Washington, DC has made things more complicated for Governor Bullock,” Sen. Tester said. “The fact is the federal government still needs to do a lot more in providing medical supplies for our frontline workers, testing capabilities need to be ramped up and critical relief is needed for our small businesses.”

Nevertheless, Gov. Bullock has followed the data and believes that beginning phase two on June 1 is the right time for Montana.

“Montana has been an example for the rest of the nation’s responses to this global pandemic,” he said. “We have taken this seriously. We began our stay at home order before over half the states in the country. It has been the collective actions of Montanans that has hindered the virus in our state, has allowed us to move forward with our phased reopening.”

Phase two will open up places like bowling alleys, restaurants and breweries, which can operate at 75 percent capacity, according to Bullock. It will also allow for groups of up to 50 people in one place at one time where social distancing can be utilized.

“One of the things that we found through this process, as we open up things and change things, we want to give a bit of a timeline so that local businesses and communities can be prepared when they change their practices or reopen their practice,” Bullock said.

The 14-day mandatory quarantine for out-of-state travelers will also be lifted on June 1.

Bullock pointed out that just because Montana is moving into the next phase, the virus isn’t a thing of the past.

“We have to recognize that we can’t prevent all COVID-19 cases, but there are things that we can do to allow Montanans to have some sense of normal life while preventing major outbreaks or overwhelming our state’s healthcare system. For example, social distancing of at least six feet, do wear a cloth mask, wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds, and if you feel sick, stay home.”

Bullock continued: “As we ask Montanans to continue to take this seriously, we’re going to be ramping up our testing ability at the state level for positive cases that might occur. We continue to ensure that we do everything we can to make sure healthcare workers have the supplies they need to treat COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. We have been ramping up our testing capacity to the target of 60,000 tests a month and prioritizing tests for the most vulnerable Montanans.”

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