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Montana: State-by-State COVID-19 Guidance


Please note: As of April 15, 2021 we are no longer doing regularly scheduled updates to this page.

April 15, 2021:

On April 13, 2021, Governor Gianforte issued an Executive Order prohibiting the use of “vaccine passports.” The Executive Order prohibits state governmental entities from:

  • Requiring an individual to have received a COVID-19 vaccine to access state services or facilities;
  • Producing, issuing, or funding vaccine passports; and
  • Sharing an individual’s vaccination status with any person, company, or governmental entity for purposes of a vaccine passport program.

Additionally, the Order prohibits Montana businesses from requiring patrons to provide documentation regarding vaccine status.

April 8, 2021:

Governor Gianforte announced a change to Montana’s vaccine distribution plan. Beginning April 1, 2021, all residents age 16 and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

February 18, 2021:

On February 16, 2021, Governor Gianforte announced that Missoula County has been selected to receive vaccines through the Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) COVID-19 vaccine program. Under this program, FQHCs will begin directly receiving vaccine supply the week of February 15.

February 15, 2021:

On February 12, 2021, Governor Gianforte issued a new Directive Implementing Executive Order 2-2021. The new Directive lifts the state’s mask mandate and ends Montana’s phased approach to reopening. Under the Directive, counties can still pass their own health orders requiring residents to wear masks, which many counties already have in place (e.g., Lewis and Clark, Gallatin, Butte-Silver Bow, and Missoula counties).

February 11, 2021:

On February 10, 2021, Governor Gianforte signed Senate Bill No. 65 into law. SB 65 provides an affirmative defense for businesses and other private entities against legal liability in the event someone is injured or dies after being exposed to COVID-19 on their premises. To avail themselves of this shield, businesses must take “reasonable measures” to follow public-health guidelines. The only exceptions to this liability shield are actions constituting gross negligence, or willful and wanton misconduct, or intentional torts.

February 3, 2021:

On February 2, 2021, Governor Gianforte announced an unexpected supply of 19,500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be redirected from CVS and Walgreens to hospitals across Montana. According to the Governor, the newly redirected vaccines will allow nearly 10,000 more Montanans in Phase 1B to be fully vaccinated.

January 19, 2021:

On January 19, Governor Gianforte announced that Montana is moving into Phase 1B of Montana’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan. Phase 1B includes people age 70 and older and Native Americans and other people of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications. Additionally, Phase 1B includes, persons aged 16-69 with high-risk medical conditions.

January 14, 2021:

On January 13, Montana’s newly elected governor, Greg Gianforte, issued Executive Order No. 2-2021 declaring a new state of emergency. In conjunction with Order 2-2021, Governor Gianforte issued the Directive Implementing Executive Order 2-2021, which removes restrictions on businesses imposed by the previous administration. Specifically, under Governor Bullock’s administration, restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, and casinos were required to operate at 50% capacity and close by 10:00 p.m., except breweries, which must already close earlier. Additionally, Bullock restricted the size limit for public gatherings 25 people. Governor Gianforte’s Directive repeals these restrictions. However, this change will not override orders from county boards of health that have adopted their own capacity or hour restriction. Further, the state’s mask mandate remains unchanged.

January 6, 2021:

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) released the Montana’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. Montana’s distribution plan includes tiered priority groups, following guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Phase 1a, which began in mid-December, includes frontline healthcare workers and people living and working in long-term care facilities. Phase 1b, which is scheduled to roll-out on January 15 includes people age 70 and older and American Indians and other people of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications. Additionally, Phase 1b includes, persons aged 16-69 with high-risk medical conditions. Further information regarding Phase 1 populations can be found here.

November 23, 2020:

(Missoula County): On November 19, Missoula City-County Health Officials released its new health order. Effective November 20, the Order caps group sizes at no more than 25 people, restricts local businesses to 50 percent capacity, and ends alcohol service at 10 p.m. Additionally, the Order requires event organizers of gatherings up to 250 people to submit plans 10 days ahead of time. The plan must show how the event or gathering meets the requirements in Appendix A. The event or gathering shall not take place without written approval from the Health Department.

(Yellowstone County): On November 19, John Felton, the Yellowstone County Health Officer, released their new health order. The order was effective as of 5:00 a.m. on November 20 and will last until December 31, 2020. All physical gatherings are limited to no more than 25 people, regardless of the ability to socially distance. All “places of assembly” have to close by 10:00 p.m. and remain closed until 4:00 a.m. The definition of “places of assembly” includes all restaurants, bars, casinos, gyms, retail venues, churches, and salons. Additionally, these entities must operate at 50% of normal capacity. Exceptions to these mandates exist for healthcare providers, drive-through delivery for food service, childcare facilities, and overnight cleaning services.

November 18, 2020:

On November 17, Governor Bullock issued a Directive on group size, capacity, and face coverings. Under the Directive, restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, and casinos must operate at 50% capacity and close by 10:00 p.m., except breweries, which must already close earlier. Additionally, the size limit for public gatherings must be 25 people, if social distancing can't be maintained, although that does not include places of worship. Finally, The Governor Bullock’s Directive extended the state's mask mandate to all counties, not just those with four or more active cases of COVID-19.

October 28, 2020:

On October 23, Governor Bullock announced the launch of a COVID-19 violation complaint form. By using the Consumer Complaint Form, Montanans can notify health officials of violations of COVID-19 directives. As of October 27, the State had received 1,300 submissions from 40 of the state’s 56 counties. According to State Communicable Disease Bureau Chief Jim Murphy, around 1,000 were concerns about businesses and 300 were comments not about a business.

October 13, 2020:

(Yellowstone County): On October 12, John Felton, the Yellowstone County Health Officer, officially released their new health order. The order is effective as of 8 a.m. on October 14 and will last until November 9, 2020. All physical gatherings are limited to no more than 25 people, regardless of the ability to socially distance or the location. Houses of worship may exceed this limitation and have 50% of the facility’s capacity. Additionally, food service establishments that serve a population that depend upon it as one of its sole sources of food are exempted, including: (1) university dining halls; (2) hospital and care facilities; (3) room service in hotels; (4) cafeterias in K-12 schools; crisis shelters and similar institutions; (5) airport concessionaries; and (6) facilities necessary for emergency response.

The order also mandates that all restaurants, bars, and casinos must close by 12:30 a.m., unless providing drive-in or delivery.

Local school districts and school boards have the decision-making authority for school-related activities, both academic and extracurricular.

October 12, 2020:

(Yellowstone County): During a press conference on October 5, Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton said a new health order would be issued if new cases of COVID-19 exceeded 565 cases in a seven day period. The reported cases of COVID-19 infections reached 598 on October 9, exceeding the limit. The county also exceeded the weekly COVID-19 infection rate of 50 per 100,000 people, prompting County Health Officer John Felton to draft new restrictions for businesses.

Mr. Felton previously announced capacity at county restaurants, bars and casinos would be reduced to 25% if the COVID-19 situation did not improve. However, at the October 9 meeting, Felton explained how conversations with restaurant owners convinced him to walk back capacity to 50%.

The new restrictions on capacity at Yellowstone County bars, restaurants and casinos is expected to be announced by the health department on October 12, along with other restrictions on group gatherings places of worship. Mr. Felton said public or private group gatherings will be limited to a size of 25 people with masking and physical distancing required. Places of worship will be reduced to 25% capacity unless the congregation is less than 45 people, Felton said.

Exceptions to the group limits will be included for cafeterias in places like college campuses and nursing homes. Childcare facilities will also be exempt, Felton said.

In a Facebook post, the Billings Chamber of Commerce wrote that Felton confirmed businesses would have some time between when the restrictions are announced and when they are implemented to make changes to operations.

October 8, 2020:

On October 7, Montana health officials reported 733 new cases of COVID-19, shattering the previous record of 504 cases, for most cases in day. In response to the rising case numbers, Governor Bullock said during a news conference that he would not implement any new statewide restrictions, despite the spike in cases. Instead, he echoed a previous call for local authorities to implement additional restrictions in counties seeing large outbreaks.

Governor Bullock also announced he is directing $200 million in state Coronavirus Relief Funds to effectively double the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and prevent the thousands of Montana businesses who pay into unemployment insurance from experiencing an 85% spike in their tax rate. The unemployment insurance tax rate schedule is typically set at the end of October each year and this year’s rate would have resulted in an increase in the average employer contribution rate of at least 85%.

Paying $200 million into the trust fund will bring the total to nearly $400 million and ensure the department can continue paying unemployment insurance to those who need it without overwhelming Montana businesses. Current estimates project this will save Montana businesses millions in tax increases over the next several years, relieving them from a required rate increase under state law to ensure funding is available for benefits.

As with any year, individual businesses may still see changes in their contribution rates based on their specific experience, such as hiring additional employees. However, these shifts are minor compared to the avoided overall rate impact that would have occurred without this transfer.

August 13, 2020:

On August 12, Governor Bullock issued a directive making face coverings in all public and private k-12 schools in counties with four or more active cases required. Also, Governor Bullock announced $10 million will be used to create the Live Entertainment Grant Program to provide long term viability for the live entertainment industry. To ensure entertainment businesses can survive extended closures and postponement, the program will provide up to 25 percent of a business’ 2019 gross revenue or a maximum of $1 million per applicant. Applicants must derive at least 33 percent of their 2019 revenue from live events and must be operating at less than 10% of last years’ revenue. Bars, restaurants, and other facilities whose primary business is anything other than live entertainment are not eligible. Applications are open August 12 at and will be evaluated on a first come first serve basis.

August 10, 2020:

On August 6, Governor Bullock directed up to $20 million to the Montana University system to support its fall semester COVID-19 strategy for testing students. Additionally, Governor Bullock issued a directive to allow counties the choice to conduct mail ballot election and expand early voting for the November general election. Whether or not they provide mail ballots, all counties are required to offer in person voting and to take precautions to ensure Montanans have the option to register or vote safely.

August 3, 2020:

On July 30, Governor Bullock announced a $1 million grant for Coronavirus Relief Funds. The funds will be available to rural and safety net health care providers to assist Montanans in finding and enrolling in affordable and comprehensive insurance coverage. Open enrollment begins on November 1 and ends December 15.

July 20, 2020:

On July 15, Governor Bullock issued a directive requiring face masks in certain indoor spaces and for certain organized outdoor activities in counties currently experiencing four or more active cases of COVID-19. The mandate applies to people ages 5 and up in all indoor spaces open to the public. That includes businesses, nonprofits, other offices, government offices, public transportation, and more. The mandate also requires face coverings at organized outdoor activities of 50 or more people, where social distancing is not possible or is not observed. The mandate goes into effect immediately and expires at the end of the declared statewide state of emergency.

July 6, 2020:

On July 2, Governor Bullock released a reopening plan for schools in the fall. The plan is categorized into three phases and provides guidance for schools to open in the fall such as cleaning protocols and occupancy limits. The complete plan is available here. Governor Bullock also stated that he plans to work with business groups to promote voluntary compliance with health guidance such as wearing masks, but there is currently no plan to mandate mask wearing.

June 18, 2020:

Governor Steve Bullock announced the creation of a loan deferment program to assist Montana businesses impacted by COVID-19. The Montana Loan Deferment Program will allow businesses and other entities to defer payments on existing loans for 6 to 12 months and free up a significant amount of otherwise dedicated capital for the borrower to leverage on a monthly basis.

May 21, 2020:

On May 19, Governor Bullock announced that the state will move to Phase Two of the Reopening the Big Sky plan and will lift the 14-day out-of-state travel quarantine beginning June 1. Phase Two allows groups larger than 50 (with proper social distancing). Additionally, restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and casinos may operate at 75% of capacity. Gyms, indoor fitness classes, pools and hot tubs may also operate at 75% of capacity. All businesses are required to follow the social distancing and sanitation guidelines established in Phase One, and Montanans are strongly encouraged to continue sanitation practices, including hand washing and wearing masks in public places like grocery stores.

May 12, 2020:

On May 11, Governor Bullock announced expanded Phase One guidelines. Originally excluded under Phase 1, gyms and fitness studios, movie theaters and museums now have the option to reopen beginning Friday, May 15 as long as they adhere to strict guidelines limiting capacity, requiring social distancing, and imposing thorough sanitation requirements. The expanded Phase One Guidelines are available here.

April 22, 2020:

On April 22, 2020, Governor Bullock issued a Directive that extends the stay at home order for individuals and businesses until April 26 and April 27 respectively. Additionally, the Directive includes a plan for re-opening the economy. Phase one is set to begin on April 26 for individuals and April 27 for businesses. Phase one allows certain non-essential businesses to resume operations, with certain requirements like health assessments and social distancing. Businesses where groups gather without the ability to social distance including movie theaters, gyms, and other places of assembly remain closed.

April 14, 2020:

On April 7, 2020, Governor Bullock issued a Directive adding to his previous directive that temporarily suspends certain evictions, foreclosures and service disconnections in Montana, by creating a program to provide rental assistance to households experiencing substantial financial hardship due to COVID-19. According to a press release from the Governor's Office, the program will also include relief funds designated specifically for households with children eligible for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

April 8, 2020:

On April 7, 2020, Governor Bullock issued a Directive extending numerous existing Executive Directives related to the prevention and spread of COVID-19. This Directive extends the expiration date from April 10 to April 24, 2020 for the following Directives:

  • Closing all non-residential public schools in Montana. Previous Directive issued March 15 and previously extended through April 10.
  • Closing certain on-premises dining and beverage businesses while expanding and encouraging delivery, takeout, and drive-up options. Previous Directive issued March 24.
  • Extending the stay at home Directive except for certain essential activities, temporarily closing non-essential businesses, provided social distancing requirements, and limited non-essential travel. Previous Directive issued March 26.
  • Limiting evictions, foreclosures, and disconnections for the duration of the Stay at Home Directive. Previous Directive issued March 30.
  • Requiring a 14-day self-quarantine for individuals arriving in Montana for non-work-related travel. Previous Directive issued March 30, which followed Governor Bullock’s travel advisory on March 19.

April 1, 2020:

Governor Bullock extended his executive order, mandating quarantine for anyone traveling to Montana from another state or country for a non-work-related purpose must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days or for the duration of the person’s presence in Montana, whichever is shorter. Additionally, this Directive authorizes the Montana National Guard to conduct temperature checks at Montana airports and rail stations and screen for potential exposure history for travelers arriving in Montana from another state or country. These quarantine restrictions do not apply to persons traveling through Montana en route to another destination, or to public health, public safety, or healthcare workers. This Directive is effective on March 30, 2020 through April 10, 2020.

March 27, 2020:

Governor Bullock issued a stay at home order. The order, which goes into effect on 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, March 28, 2020 and lasts through April 10, 2020, requires all persons currently living within the State of Montana to stay at home or their place of residence. The order exempts essential businesses including: healthcare operations, essential infrastructure, grocery stores and food retailers, agriculture, homeless shelters, media, gas stations and auto repair, financial institutions, hardware stores, firearms businesses, plumbers/electricians, exterminators/landscapers and other sanitation service providers, mailing and shipping services, educational institutions, laundromats, hotels/motels, carry-out or drive-through restaurants, grocery delivery services, transportation providers, home-based care, essential tribal operations, Idaho National Laboratory-related activities, professional services, childcare facilities, and businesses that supply other Essential Businesses. The order incorporates the federal CISA guidance to further define essential businesses and operations.

March 20, 2020:

Governor Bullock issued a Directive closing dine-in food services, alcoholic beverage businesses, health clubs, and other facilities across the state. Among others, this restriction does not apply to the following: (1) Establishments offering off-site consumption, including grocery store, markets, and convenience stores; (2) Room service in hotels; (3) Health care facilities, residential care facilities, university dining facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities; (4) Crisis shelters or similar institutions; and (5) Any facilities necessary for the response to the emergency, including schools providing necessary meal services to children. This Directive is effective at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020 and expires at 11:59 p.m. However, on March 24, 2020, Governor Bullock extended the restrictions until April 10, 2020.