HELENA, Mont. - Gov. Steve Bullock held a press conference Tuesday to provide an update on COVID-19 in Montana and announce new restrictions in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Positive cases in Montana continue to climb, exhausting health care workers and hospitals in the state.

Gov. Bullock says he hopes to get at least 100 contracted medical staff from across the county within the next week to assist Montana medical staff, who are unavailable to work due to quarantining or testing positive for COVID-19.

In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, Gov. Bullock also announced a new set of public health measures to begin on Friday, Nov. 20.

"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," Gov. 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."

Under the new health order, the statewide mask requirement will be expanded to all Montana counties. Previously, any county with fewer than four confirmed cases of COVID-19 was not required to enforce face mask usage.

Also beginning Friday, restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, and casinos will be required to operate at no greater than 50% of normal capacity. Those businesses will also be required to limit guests to no more than six per table and to close no later than 10 p.m. 

Public gatherings will be limited to 25 people where social distancing is not possible or observed. The new health order does not apply to houses of worship or K-12 schools.

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

To support businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, the governor announced he 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 be invited 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.

Governor Bullock will also be providing $25 million to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry to provide eligible Montanans who are unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19 with a supplemental payment of $200 a week for four weeks. 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.

Read the governor's full directive here.

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