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Gov. Bullock Announces Montana to Enter Phase Two

Phase Two Begins June 1

Governor Steve Bullock announced the state will move to Phase  Two of the Reopening the Big Sky plan and will lift the 14-day  out-of-state travel quarantine beginning June 1 as Montana continues to  have the lowest number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations  per capita. 

“Montana has been an example for the rest of the nation in  our response to this global pandemic. I have no doubt that we can  continue to be that example, but only if Montanans, businesses, and  visitors alike continue to take seriously the responsibility we all have  in protecting others,” Governor Bullock said. “As we continue with the next phase in our reopening, our goal together as Montanans for the foreseeable future is to mitigate the spread of the virus.”

“The individual actions of Montanans have collectively made a  difference. Staying 6-feet away, washing hands, wearing masks while in  public, and staying home when sick, have all contributed to us being  able to move forward with the plan to reopen Montana. We are at an  important milestone and if each of us continues to do our part to  prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading, we’ll stay on the path to  fully reopen Montana,” John Felton, Yellowstone County Health Officer and President/CEO of RiverStone Health, said.

“Since this COVID-19 emergency began Governor Bullock has  consistently listened to city and county governments around the state as  he has formulated a strategy to respond. And that strategy has worked.  Thanks to Governor Bullock's leadership, Montana has escaped the  tragedies other states have experienced. We are fortunate to have him at  the helm as we reopen Montana. We are thankful for his commitment to  ensure we will keep Montana safe during the summer months as we rebuild  our economy,” Cynthia Andrus, Deputy Mayor, City of Bozeman, said.

“We are grateful for Governor Bullock’s diligence as he works  to reopen Montana safely and continues to and consider the unique  concerns and challenges in tribal communities including a large  population of elderly Montanans and families in multi-generational  households. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council appreciate Governor  Bullock has respected tribal sovereignty and decisions to put in place  more restrictive measures to keep tribal communities safe and has  supported our efforts to contain the virus through increased testing,” said the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council.

In consultation with public health and emergency response officials,  Governor Bullock outlined the following indicators which allow Montana  to move into Phase Two beginning on June 1:

  • A downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period.
  • The current ability to contact and trace, along with plans to add additional contact tracers to the existing workforce.
  • Ensuring that health care workers have the supplies they need to treat COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
  • Ramping up testing capacity to eventually meet a target of 60,000  tests a month and prioritizing testing for vulnerable Montanans and  tribal communities. A total of 5,600 tests were conducted last week.  Increased testing continues with sentinel testing efforts in nursing  homes and assisting living facilities, testing events in tribal areas,  and drive through testing being conducted at a few sites.

Under Phase Two, effective June 1, avoid gatherings in groups of more  than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for  appropriate physical distancing. Groups larger than 50 people should be  cancelled unless physical distancing can be maintained. It is  recommended to continue to social distance in gatherings of any size.

Under Phase Two, effective June 1, restaurants, bars, breweries,  distilleries and casinos remains in the same operations status as Phase  One, but with an increase to 75% capacity. Gyms, indoor group fitness  classes, pool, and hot tubs can operate at 75% capacity and only if they  can adhere to strict physical distancing and they exercise frequent  sanitation protocols. Concert halls, bowling alleys, and other places of  assembly may operate with reduced capacity and if they adhere to strict  physical distancing guidelines.

All businesses are required to follow the social distancing and  sanitation guidelines established in Phase One, and Montanans are  strongly encouraged to continue sanitation practices, including hand  washing and wearing masks in public places like grocery stores.

“Social distancing, wearing a cloth mask, washing your hands,  and sanitizing are all part of our new normal. If not for you, do it  for others, especially for the most vulnerable among us,” Governor Bullock said. “Not  following these guidelines could put us in a position where we have to  go backward, instead of being able to continue to move forward.”

Vulnerable Montanans should still continue to stay home when possible  during Phase Two. Visitation at nursing home and assisted living  facilities remains suspended except for certain compassionate care  situations.

Effective June 1, the 14-day travel quarantine for out-of-state  travelers and residents arriving from another state or country to  Montana for non-work-related purposes will be lifted. The Montana  National Guard will continue to conduct screenings in airports and train  depots and refer anyone with COVID-19-related symptoms to local public  health officials.

To support Montana’s destination communities, the state will assist with establishing the following protocols:

  • Surveillance testing of employees.
  • Enhanced contact tracing resources deployed to these areas as requested by local authorities.
  • Ability to surge personal protective equipment to impacted health care systems.
  • Guidelines for operation for business that see high-tourist activity.

Montana’s gradual and phased plan to reopen began on April 26 with  Phase One which allowed schools, places of worship, main street and  retail businesses, and restaurants, breweries, and bars to reopen under  social distancing guidelines. Governor Bullock also provided additional  guidance to allow gyms, movie theaters, and museums to reopen under the  first phase on May 15. 

Governor Bullock and his Coronavirus Task Force will continue to  monitor cases closely and carefully to analyze Montana’s work to contain  the virus.

The Directive and its Appendix are posted online at


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Conrad businesses: hours and access information

1st Choice Realty Open, Call for appointment 278-9129

1st Liberty Federal Credit Union: Drive thru open  

Branding Iron Open : Bar 2 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.; Restaurant 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Bowling Alley and pool tables closed

Brown-Fitchner & Assoc. Business by phone or email; Open Mon-thurs 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Fri 8-3

Coaches Corner: Take out, curbside pickup and delivery. Free masks; 4:30 – 8 PM

Conrad Building Center Open

Country Charm Open Mon-Fri 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sat 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. In-store shopping limited to one; curbside delivery

Elings Insurance Office open, appointment recommended  

Folklore: Take out, curbside pickup and delivery. Free masks, 7:30 AM – 2 PM

Gary & Leo’s IGA:  Open, also providing delivery for AT RISK residents, free masks

H & R Realty Open, Call for appointment  271-2080

Home Café: Restaurant seating, open 6 a.m. - 2 p.m. Social distance seating to be followed

Independence Bank, Lobby and Drive-thru open.

Java Hut: Delivery and drive thru only. Free masks; 6:30 AM – 1 PM

Main Drive-in  Mon - Sat 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Marias Greenhouse Open 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. 576-7297

Northern Front Guns and Ammo Open Tues. - Sat. 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Olsons’Drug and Village Drug: Both Open. Both will continue to offer home delivery 

Pet Paws Grooming and Supply Open 10 a.m. - 5 pm. Call for appointment 271-7394

Pondera County Insurance: ? Call for hours 271-2034

Senior Center Open for delivery and pick up only. Call 271-3911 to reserve a meal

Stockman Bank Lobbies open

Subway: Open for pickup and take out 10 AM – 8 PM

Sunset Dental Care Mon - Fre 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Super 8: Closed

The Keg: Open for pickup, takeout and delivery 11 AM – 8 PM

The Independent-Observer:: Lobby Open Hours 8 AM - 5 PM

Town Pump: Open 24 hours.

Windrift Hill Open Mon - Fri 8 a.m.  - 5:30 p.m., Sat 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.


Kindergarten Registration Information

Due to the school building closure, Conrad Schools will postpone kindergarten screening until a later date. In order to register your child for kindergarten, please go to the Conrad Schools homepage,, to complete the kindergarten registration form. 



     U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue released the following statement after President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order to keep meat and poultry processing facilities open during the COVID-19 national emergency.

     “I thank President Trump for signing this executive order and recognizing the importance of keeping our food supply chain safe, secure, and plentiful. Our nation’s meat and poultry processing facilities play an integral role in the continuity of our food supply chain,” said Secretary Perdue. “Maintaining the health and safety of these heroic employees in order to ensure that these critical facilities can continue operating is paramount. I also want to thank the companies who are doing their best to keep their workforce safe as well as keeping our food supply sustained. USDA will continue to work with its partners across the federal government to ensure employee safety to maintain this essential industry.”

     The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor have put out guidance for plants to implement to help ensure employee safety to reopen plants or to continue to operate those still open. Under the Executive Order and the authority of the Defense Production Act, USDA will work with meat processing to affirm they will operate in accordance with the CDC and OSHA guidance, and then work with state and local officials to ensure that these plants are allowed to operate to produce the meat protein that Americans need. USDA will continue to work with the CDC, OSHA, FDA, and state and local officials to ensure that facilities implementing this guidance to keep employees safe can continue operating.

Additional information and details will be released soon.


Montana Senators demand investigation into price fixing

     U.S. Senator Steve Daines sent a letter calling on the Department of  Justice (DOJ) to investigate the ongoing allegations of price-fixing and  market manipulation within the cattle market and the beef meatpacking  industry. 

     “At a time when cattle producers are seeing record losses and  bankruptcies, now exacerbated by the COVID-19, compared to the shelf  price of meat at record highs – these margins fail to make sense. We ask  that the Department of Justice Antitrust Division evaluate these dual  concerns thoroughly and expeditiously in order to protect the integrity  of America’s failing beef industry,” Daines wrote. 

To read the full letter, click HERE

     This letter follows Montana cattle producers concerns regarding the  low cattle prices and the consolidation of the beef processing market.  The letter also highlights the growing disparity between live and feeder  cattle prices compared to the boxed beef prices on supermarket shelves. In addition to Daines, the letter was also signed by U.S. Sens. John Thune, Mike Rounds, and Kevin Cramer.  


Last September,  Daines sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)  Secretary Sonny Perdue urging a swift, thorough and transparent  investigation into the impact of the fire that occurred at a Tyson Food  beef processing plant in Holcomb, Kansas.

     U.S. Senator Jon Tester also demanded that Attorney General William Barr, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, open an investigation into reports of price fixing in the cattle market in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

     “The profit discrepancies between packers and independent ranchers is egregious, and merits a long-overdue antitrust investigation into the consolidated meat packing industry,” wrote Tester and three of his colleagues. “The Federal government must act on this issue soon or American’s cow calf operators, as well as small and medium size feeders will go out of business while multi-national corporations continue to reap record profits.” 

Tester highlighted that price irregularities in the beef market have been present for some time, but have been made worse by the nationwide outbreak of the coronavirus.

The senators continued, “Evidence of price fixing is now even clearer as the nation reacts to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Yet again, as the demand for beef increases nationwide, live cattle futures are sinking. We are hearing from ranchers that it is not feasible to sell their cattle at such low futures and still hope to break even.  In a time when Americans are consuming more beef than ever before, it is confounding that ranchers are struggling, while meat packers take home record profits…The nation’s food supply chain is an issue of national security.”

     Tester has championed providing relief to cattle producers in the face of the pandemic, and after Montana’s ranchers recently saw the steepest price decline for cattle in forty years, Tester demanded that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue take immediate action to stabilize beef markets.

     As the Senate’s only working farmer, Tester has led the fight to make sure Montana producers have the certainty they need to get through the coronavirus pandemic. Just this week, he secured an expansion of the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Relief Loan and Emergency Economic Injury Grant Programs to include ag businesses, farms, and ranches with fewer than 500 employees. He also recently sent a letter to Secretary Perdue urging the Trump Administration to grant farmers more flexibility in their Farm Service Agency loans in order to ensure the continuity of the country's food supply and support rural areas during the coronavirus pandemic by providing critical relief to producers. 

Read Tester’s full letter HERE.


governor BUllock Introduces plan for phased reopening

Click the link below to read complete plan



Montana Shakespeare in the Park to air plays on facebook

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Montana Shakespeare in the Parks will begin streaming some of its best performances free online in showings scheduled throughout April and May.

Beginning Friday, April 3, MSIP Live will show recordings of its recent plays every two weeks via Facebook. Shows will begin at 7 p.m. MDT and be available online for 24 hours.

A list of the performances and dates follow:

  • April 3: “Othello”
  • April 17: “You Can Never Tell”
  • May 1: “Henry IV, Part I”
  • May 15: “Twelfth Night” (Shakespeare in the Schools performance)

“We have remained focused on our mission of providing our communities with access to free professional theater,” said Kevin Asselin, executive artistic director for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks. “In this time of uncertainty, our goal is to investigate new ways of reinventing our programming so that we can remain accessible in a time when our audiences need a break from our challenging circumstances.”

The mission of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is to engage and enrich both rural and underserved communities with professional productions of Shakespeare and other classic plays and, through educational outreach, to inspire creative expression and appreciation of the arts in young audiences.

For more information, visit or email



Pondera County Courthouse, Health Department Move to Limited Access Only - Call (406) 271-4000 for Information

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Northern Border Remains Closed to Non-essential Traffic

The northern border will remain closed for another 30 days to 

non-essential travel

Import/Export will not be affected