Take a hike? Hit the liquor store? What's OK and not under Montana's shelter-in-place order
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Take a hike? Hit the liquor store? What's OK and not under Montana's shelter-in-place order

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On Thursday Gov. Steve Bullock issued a shelter-in-place order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus in Montana.

The state announced its first four cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on March 13 and over the next 13 days the total known cases statewide rose to at least 90.

Bullock's order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and lasts until April 10. The state was already under orders that closed bars, gyms, theaters and other places people congregate, and moved restaurants, coffee shops and breweries to take-out or delivery only. Public K-12 schools are also closed. Both those orders expire April 10, though that could change. The university system has moved to educating students online for the rest of the year.

The shelter-in-place directive goes farther than those previous orders. People will still be able to buy groceries, but some retail shops will close. Trails on public lands around the state are open, but people must follow social distancing guidelines.

Here's a rundown of what's in the directive:

Shelter in place

Montanans are directed to stay home as much as possible, and can leave their residences only for essential actives or to operate essential businesses or operations.

Leaving home for outdoor exercise on public lands is also allowed, though social distancing guidelines of not gathering in groups of more than 10 and staying at least 6 feet away from others must be followed.

Engaging in higher-risk outdoor behavior that might require emergency medical services is discouraged, as it would stress the health care system in the state.

People who are unsafe in their homes, such as people at risk of domestic violence, may leave and are urged to seek a safe alternative location.

Shelters are still open, and the homeless are exempt from the order.

What's essential

Generally, things that keep people fed, safe and healthy, and services that keep governments, towns and the state operating are considered essential.

Businesses that aren't essential and must cease on-site operations can still have employees work from home where possible.

Businesses and operations that are essential must follow as much as possible social distancing guidelines.

A more detailed list of business allowed to stay open is below.


All travel is limited to essential travel. Some public transit across the state has been closed by local government. Bullock's order doesn't shut down public transit, but does require complying with social distancing rules.

People can leave their homes to do things like care for the health and safety of their household members, including pets. That includes actions like obtaining medical supplies or medication, seeking emergency services or seeing a doctor. 

Also allowed is travel to do things like care for the elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities or other vulnerable people.

Travel is also OK to buy and deliver groceries and food, as well as household consumer products to maintain a safe and sanitary residence. That means you can buy toilet paper if you can find it.

People can also leave the house to go care for family, friends or pets in another household or to transport those populations as necessary.

Travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning is also allowed.

People may return to Montana, but are advised to self-quarantine for 14 days upon getting back to the state.

Travel that's required by law enforcement or a court order, such as to transport children pursuant to a custody agreement, is exempt.

Those coming to Montana on vacations should follow shelter-in-place orders at their hotels or rentals.

Health care

Hospitals, clinics, dental offices, eye doctors, pharmacies and more, including licensed medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivation centers and reproductive health care centers are still allowed to operate. Some of these places have closed on their own, however, so it's best to check with providers to see what is open.

Veterinary care and all health care services for animals are also still allowed.

Gyms, spas, salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors and similar facilities will be closed.

Human services operations

Providers that are funded by the state Department of Public Health and Human Services or Medicaid, as well as people who get services at those providers, are allowed to leave their homes to work to provide or access those services.

Long-term care facilities and residential facilities for those with developmental or intellectual disabilities can stay open. So can rehabilitation centers and residential facilities for those with mental health illnesses, and more.

Field offices that help determine whether people are eligible for support to meet basic needs like food, medical coverage and more are allowed.

Child care centers are also allowed to stay open. 

Essential and governmental infrastructure

Generally people who do the work that keeps the state functioning, such as distributing food, running airports, building roads, keeping the internet up, operating dams and more, can still go to work.

Police, firefighters, corrections employees, child protection workers, first responders and those who support that work are exempt. The order does not apply to the federal government, nor does it interfere with tribal sovereignty.

What's open?

  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine.
  • Liquor stores.
  • Food and beverage production.
  • Agriculture operations.
  • Organizations that provide charitable and social services.
  • Media.
  • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation, like auto supply and repair shops and bicycle shops.
  • Financial and real estate services and institutions.
  • Hardware and supply stores.
  • Critical trades, like construction, plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff and more.
  • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, deliver, and pick-up services.
  • Educational institutions, but only to facilitate remote learning. Closure orders still remain in place for public K-12 schools and universities.
  • Laundry services, such as laundromats and dry cleaners.
  • Restaurants for consumption off-premises.
  • Business that sell supplies to work from home, including computers and audio and video electronics.
  • Firearms and ammunition suppliers and retailers, for purposes of safety and security.
  • Transportation, including airlines, taxis, Uber and Lyft, vehicle rental services and more.
  • Home-based care and services.
  • Residential facilities and shelters.
  • Professional services, like legal, accounting, insurance, information technology and real estate services. The state and federal tax deadline has been extended to July 15.
  • Manufacture, distribution and supply chain for critical products and industries.
  • Critical labor union functions.
  • Hotels and motels.
  • Funeral services.

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