Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued an executive directive to close all “non-essential businesses.” The mandate, announced on March 26, 2020, effectively requires Montana residents employed by non-essential businesses to stay home.

Citing authority granted to him under the state constitution and the Montana Code Annotated, Gov. Bullock, announced all businesses and operations in Montana — “except for essential businesses and operations as defined in the directive” — are to stop all activities in the state effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 28, 2020.

Essential businesses, as defined by the governor’s directive and established by the MCA, include but are not limited to:

• Stores that sell groceries and medicine

• Food and beverage production and agriculture

• Organizations that provide charitable and social services

• Media including newspapers, television, radio and other media services

• Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation

• Hardware and supply stores...and businesses that sell electrical, plumbing and heating material

• Critical trades including building and construction tradesmen and tradeswomen, and other trades

• Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services • Educational institutions

• Laundry services including laundromats, dry cleaners and industrial laundry services

• Restaurants for consumption off-premises

• Hotels and motels...to the extent they are used for lodging and delivery or carry-out food services

• Transportation including airlines, taxis and transportation network providers

• Funeral services including funeral, mortuary, cremation, burial, cemetery and related services

For the complete list of “Essential Businesses and Operations” see the governor’s directive.

”Including but not limited to plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services....”

”Educational institutions — including public and private pre-K–12 schools, colleges, and universities — for purposes of facilitating remote learning, performing critical research, or performing other essential functions consistent with prior Directives on school closures.”

Stay home to stop virus

Gov. Bullock announced the drastic decision to require all non-essential workers to stay home until at least April 10, 2020, in an effort to stop the virus from spreading further and to ensure healthcare providers are not overloaded, he said.

“There’s no doubt that COVID-19 is causing a lot of hardship,” the governor stated. “It’s also causing incredible hardships for our frontline doctors, nurses and other hospital staff across the country.”

Workers deemed “non-essential” are being asked to stay home and take measures to stay healthy. Under the directive, Montanans may leave their homes to:

• Engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members.

• Obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others...to maintain sanitation, and essential operation of residences

• Engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with social distancing...such as...walking, hiking, running, or biking. Individuals may go to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas, including public lands in Montana provided they remain open to recreation.

• Take care of others. To care for a family member, friend, or pet in another household, and to transport family members, friends, or pets as allowed by this Directive.

The Montana constitution authorizes the governor, during a state of emergency, to “suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business or orders or rules of any state agency if the strict compliance with the provisions of any statute, order, or rule would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency or disaster.”

MNA supports media

Matt Gibson, executive director of the Montana Newspaper Association (MNA), announced the Montana media is receiving full support from the MNA in accordance with government directives at every level.

“I can assure you that the Department of Homeland Security has issued a memo specifically identifying media as essential infrastructure, and thus possessing a special responsibility to maintain a regular work schedule,” Gibson stated.

Gibson expressed the MNA’s gratitude to everyone deemed essential to keeping their communities running smoothly throughout this current crisis.

“A sincere thanks to all of you for the work you’re doing to promote public health and support your communities during this anxious time,” he stated. “We’re sharing a profound experience, and we can become stronger because of it.”

Citing the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918, Gov. Bullock noted in his proclamation it is not unprecedented for the state’s chief executive to declare a state of emergency because of health concerns.

Bullock reminded Montanans that more than a century ago public-health authorities closed schools and other public places to prevent the spread of the Spanish flu.

“These measures can save lives across the United States now,” Bullock declared. “Montana must act now, before its own rate of infection mirrors that of other states.

“I am taking these measures today because we need to stay in front of this pandemic and slow the growth of infections,” Gov. Bullock continued. “In order to have a healthy economy we need a healthy population. We cannot rebuild our economic strength without doing everything we can now to flatten the curve and slow the spread of this virus.”

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