State Closes All Eateries, Gyms Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

A day after Flathead County ordered businesses to close public spaces alter services, the state follows suit

By Justin Franz
Restaurants, bars and other eateries around Whitefish have either closed or have switched to take-out or delivery only as a measure to mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus, as seen on March 17, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

All restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses across Montana that pose a risk to public health will have to close their doors or alter their operations at 8 p.m. Friday, Gov. Steve Bullock has announced.

The announcement that Bullock would be closing businesses for one week comes the same day a similar order by Flathead County Public Health Officer Hillary Hanson goes into effect locally.

The state order is set to expire on March 27 at 11:59, the same day the school closure is set to expire, but state officials note that both “will likely be extended.”

“Both young and older Montanans, in urban and rural communities, have tested positive for coronavirus, making it even more clear that this virus impacts us all and that these actions are imperative to protecting our friends and neighbors,” Bullock said. “We face extraordinary health risks – and with it even further risks to our economic and social well-being – if we do not act now. I do not take this decision lightly and it was done so in consultation with public health professionals. Montanans, too, need to take this seriously. It’s up to all of us to stop the spread of this virus.”

A number of counties across the state instituted similar closures earlier in the week.

Under the state directive, the following places are closed to the public:

  • Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other similar establishments offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption.

  • Alcoholic beverage service businesses, including bars, taverns, brewpubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other establishments offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.

  • Cigar bars.

  • Health clubs, health spas, gyms, aquatic centers, pools and hot springs, indoor facilities at ski areas, climbing gyms, fitness studios, and indoor recreational facilities.

  • Movie and performance theaters, nightclubs, concert halls, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and music halls.

  • Casinos.

Food and beverage providers are encouraged to continue to offer drive-through, delivery or take-out services.

The state order does not impact health care facilities, university dining rooms, shelters, airport concessionaires, and any facility responding to the emergency, including schools providing meal service to children. However, all facilities that are open are encouraged to adopt social distancing practices.

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