Some Montana Stores Cautiously Reopen as Restrictions Eased

Montana has seen a steady decline in the number of coronavirus cases since its peak in late March

By Amy Beth Hanson, Associated Press

HELENA — Some Montana businesses began reopening on Monday under the first phase of a new normal as the number of cases of COVID-19 continue to decline in the state.

While other states have been extending restrictions amid the spread of the coronavirus, Montana has seen a steady decline in the number of cases since its peak in late March, prompting Gov. Steve Bullock to loosen some restrictions in hopes of re-starting the economy and regaining some normalcy.

The doors remained locked Monday at some specialty stores in downtown Helena, but customers could knock for service for the first time in a month.

The toy store Lasso the Moon was allowing up to four people inside at a time, as long as they were wearing masks. Owner Amy Barrett was looking at more ways to offer electronic payment to limit contact with cash.

The store took down play and demonstration tables, “which makes us sad,” she said, explaining it would be too difficult to keep them sanitized.

Employees at The Pan Handler Plus, which sells high quality cooking equipment, dishes and wine, will fill orders via phone or answer a knock at the door for people shopping for specific items.

“People can’t just walk in,” employee John Murdy said.

The Base Camp, an outdoor clothing store, opened with social distancing requirements, shields at the cash registers and employees wearing masks, said manager Tim Lynch. The store is also offering curbside pickup.

Other businesses, including gift and wild bird supply store Birds and Beasleys, delayed re-opening for another week.

The retail re-openings began a day after churches in the state were allowed to hold their first public services after the state’s general stay-at-home order expired.

Under the first phase of reopening the economy, which has no set timeline, people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions were asked to keep staying at home. Gyms, pools, movie theaters and bowling alleys will remain closed and residents were urged to minimize nonessential travel. People returning to the state were asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Counties and tribes were allowed to set more strict conditions.

The state reported two new cases of COVID-19 from tests run over the weekend, raising the state total to at least 449 cases. Fourteen people have died and 11 remained hospitalized.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, difficulty breathing and a loss of the sense of taste and/or smell. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

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