HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana's governor is putting some new restrictions in place as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge with a daily record of 1,500 cases reported Tuesday and as hospital resources are strained.
Beginning Friday, Gov. Steve Bullock is expanding the mask mandate to all of the state's counties. It had been in place for counties with four or more active cases of COVID-19. On Tuesday, it applied to all but two counties.
Restaurants, casinos, bars and breweries will be limited to 50% customer capacity and will need to be closed by 10 p.m. The new restrictions limit group gatherings to no more than 25 people if social distancing isn't possible, but Bullock strongly encouraged people to avoid group gatherings of more than 15 people, even in their homes.
Bullock also announced an additional $75 million in federal coronavirus relief funds available for businesses who agree to enforce the mask and physical distancing requirement, $25 million in unemployment benefits paid at an additional $200 per week and another $3 million for food banks.
Since the pandemic began in mid-March, Montana has confirmed more than 49,000 cases of COVID-19. The number of cases is believed to be far higher because not everyone has been tested and studies have shown some people can become infected without feeling sick.
The state reported 456 people are hospitalized, and 543 have died.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
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