At a press conference in Helena on Tuesday, Montana Governor Steve Bullock announced that he was tightening restrictions on mask wearing and public gatherings statewide.

“Beginning this Friday, November 20, I will be implementing a new set of public health measures in our state to help reduce possibilities for transmission of the virus in our communities,” said Bullock. “First I'll be expanding the statewide mask directive or requirement to cover all counties regardless of the number of active cases. I have determined that to protect public health and human safety, it's essential to impose certain restrictions and recommendations to limit public gatherings and close contact with others. Beginning this Friday, November 20, restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, and casinos will be required to operate at no greater than 50% of normal operating capacity and to close no later than 10:00 p.m..”

Bullock also emphasized the importance of reducing the number of people in social situations.

“This directive that we're putting in does not alter the existing directives for public and private K-12 schools, or provide for the restrictions on houses of worship,” he said. Though this group size limit applies only to public gatherings and events of more than 25 where social distancing isn't possible or observed, I urge Montanans in the strongest terms to limit their involvement in any in-person gatherings of 15 or more people, including private gatherings inside a home, as such gatherings are a significant contributor to the spread of this virus.”

Bullock also introduced more federal stimulus money during the holidays to help those who are unemployed.

“We'll also be launching the Interim Pandemic Assistance Program, which will provide up to $25 million in enhanced benefits for unemployed Montanans due to COVID-19,” he said. “Any eligible Montanan who is unemployed or partially unemployed due to COVID-19 disruptions and is receiving unemployment benefits will receive a $200 per week enhanced payment. The $200 payment is in addition to and will be paid separately from the individuals weekly benefit amount for a four week period.”

Bullock said all Montanans, as well as the federal government, must work together to keep the virus from spreading during the upcoming holidays.

“For our state and nation to be successful in fighting this virus in the coming months and eventually distribute a vaccine, we need all partners to be engaged, especially at the federal level,” he said. “With 1500 new reported cases in the state of Montana alone today and now with 543 deaths with COVID-19 projected to be near the top of the leading causes of death in Montana this year, we must be extra careful regarding both now and throughout holiday celebrations this season.”

To receive the extra unemployment support, eligible recipients do not need to apply separately. Individuals will receive the benefit if they keep filing their regular payment requests at this website.