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Gianforte Names COVID-19 Task Force Members

Active coronavirus cases by Montana County, November 10, 2020.
Active coronavirus cases by Montana County, November 10, 2020.

Republican Governor-elect Greg Gianforte has put together a task force that will help inform the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic when he assumes office in January.

Gianforte says the COVID-19 task force will help him tailor a plan to address the “health and economic well-being of Montanans." Leading up to the election Gianforte didn't release specific plans to take over the state’s response to the coronavirus. The make-up of the task force gives more insight into what his priorities will be.

List of Governor-elect Greg Gianforte's COVID-19 task force, released November 10, 2020.
List of Governor-elect Greg Gianforte's COVID-19 task force, released November 10, 2020.

The list, sent out in a news release, includes educators, representatives of hospitals and long-term care facilities, a priest, business owners, a former pharmaceutical executive and a Fort Peck tribal board member.

Adjutant General Matthew Quinn, who leads current Gov. Steve Bullock’s coronavirus task force, will also be on Gianforte’s team.

Gianforte said in the news release that it’s his "top priority to work together to protect the most vulnerable among us, while also safely and fully opening back up our economy."

Gianforte has said that he doesn’t think statewide mandates are the right approach to respond to the pandemic, and that he would defer to personal responsibility.

In recent weeks Montana has seen a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. 

Members of Governor-elect Gianforte’s COVID-19 Task Force are:

  • Kurt G. Alme – U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana (Billings)
  • Don Beeman – Member of the Bozeman Health Board of Directors; former VP of U.S. Commercial Operations for Merck’s Vaccine Division (Bozeman)
  • Father Patrick Beretta – Parish priest at St. Patrick and Immaculate Conception Churches in Butte; Chaplain at Montana Technological University; Member of spiritual team at St. James Healthcare (Butte)
  • Daniel Bierschwale – Executive Director of Big Sky Resort Area District (Big Sky)
  • Dax Cetraro – Owner of Village Inn Pizza, Grand Plaza Casino, Rialto Bar (Helena)
  • Greg Chilcott – Ravalli County Commissioner; Trustee for Montana Association of Counties (Hamilton)
  • Heidi M. Duncan, MD, FAAFP – Medical Director at the Billings Clinic (Billings)
  • Wayne Leiker – VP of Refining Operations at Calumet Refinery (Great Falls)
  • Liz Moore – Executive Director of the Montana Nonprofit Association (Helena)
  • Hannah Nieskins – Superintendent of Whitehall; 2018 Montana Principal of the Year & 2019 NASSP Principal of the Year finalist (Whitehall)
  • Rick Norby – President of Montana League of Cities and Towns; Mayor of Sidney (Sidney)
  • Todd O’Hair – President and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce (Helena)
  • Adjutant General Matthew Quinn – Commander of Montana Air National Guard; currently leads Governor Bullock’s Coronavirus Task Force (Helena)
  • Sheryl Scheafer – President of Montana Parent Teachers Association (Billings)
  • Dan Schmidt – Superintendent of Poplar Schools (Poplar)
  • Jesse Slaughter – Cascade County Sheriff (Great Falls)
  • Karen Sullivan, MA – Butte-Silver Bow Public Health Officer (Butte)
  • Randy Swenson – Owner of TenderNest Assisted Living (Billings)
  • Cherie Taylor – CEO of Northern Rockies Medical Center (Cut Bank)
  • Steve Wahrlich – Owner of Best Western Plus Clocktower Inn & Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery (Billings)
  • Kaci Wallette – Ft. Peck Tribal Executive Board member and nurse (Ft. Peck)

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Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.