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Montana Coronavirus And COVID-19 News

The novel coronavirus.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The novel coronavirus.

Update 09/24/20

Newly confirmed coronavirus cases in Montana have spiked to another record and health officials report that the number of infections tied to schools more than doubled in just a week.

State officials reported 333 new confirmed cases of the respiratory virus on Thursday, topping the previous single-day record set less than a week ago.

The number of schools with associated cases rose from 58 last week to 121. The overwhelming majority of those campuses reported new cases in the past two weeks.

COVID-19 has killed 165 people and infected more than 11,000 people so far in Montana. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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Montana’s governor says the state’s employment rate is in a healthier place compared to many other states after the coronavirus pandemic led to government mandated business closures earlier this year. Some economists say it’s too soon to draw conclusions. Read more

With Cases Spiking, Blackfeet Tribe Orders 14-Day Shutdown Of Entire Reservation

The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council announced Thursday a mandatory 14-day shutdown of the entire Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which will begin Sunday at midnight. The Blackfeet Nation reported a spike in cases today with 86 active cases on the reservation. According to a Facebook post from the Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Command, public health officials recommend a two-week shutdown due to the high infection rate of COVID-19.

In a Facebook live video posted Monday, Tribal Chair Tim Davis urged tribal members to continue wearing masks, washing hands, and to stay away from large social gatherings.

"We need to be vigilant, diligent, and following the recommendations of our health experts."

According to a news release from the business council, law enforcement will issue citations and fines to those who do not comply with the mandatory shutdown. The council said more details about the shutdown will be released on its Facebook page.

The St. Mary and Babb communities in the Blackfeet Nation were placed under a mandatory 14-day quarantine last week.

Update 09/23/20

The State of Montana reported 214 new lab-confirmed cases Wednesday from 3,151 tests. At the state level, Yellowstone County tops the list of counties with most new cases, at 45. Rosebud County follows with 21 new cases and Flathead with 20.

Cascade City-County Health Department today announced 19 new COVID-19 cases and Tuesday announced 59 new cases. The health department said a third of yesterday’s numbers are connected to a cluster at the local jail.

Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter yesterday said there are currently 68 people with active cases of COVID-19 at the Cascade County Detention Center. Cascade County health department also said that social gatherings during the recent Labor Day weekend and symptomatic people failing to quarantine themselves may be responsible for the uptick in cases.

The state has announced 165 total deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, and deaths in Yellowstone county are responsible for 62 of those. The Yellowstone County health department today said a woman in her 60s died in a Yellowstone County hospital Tuesday.

The state releases an update on positive cases in Montana schools today. As of last Wednesday, data show there are a total of 194 positive cases associated with 59 schools. Universities accounted for roughly half of those cases.

The state reports almost 11,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 to date.

Update 09/22/20

Montana's chief medical officer says the state is seeing a “remarkable increase" in COVID-19 cases. Over the past week, the state has averaged just over 200 cases per day and has a total of at least 10,700 confirmed cases of the respiratory virus. Health officials attribute the increased cases to schools reopening, Labor Day gatherings and increasing spread in congregate living settings, such as nursing homes and jails.
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Update 09-21-20

Schools on the Fort Peck Indian reservation in northeast Montana say they’re switching to fully remote learning for two weeks due to an increase in COVID cases. Frazer Public Schools informed parents of its decision in a letter over the weekend. Fort Peck Community College announced its transition to online classes Monday.

Following a recent surge in cases the Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Command wrote on Facebook today that it’s heard people asking about a possible reservation-wide quarantine and said the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council is working with Public Health Officials on the matter. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council posted an update reiterating that tribal members should wear masks and observe social distancing.

The State of Montana announced 130 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 Monday from 8,449 tests run.

Yellowstone County’s public health department announced that two women in their sixties and one man in his seventies died in county hospitals over the last few days from illnesses connected with COVID-19.

Yellowstone County added 22 cases today, Cascade added 18 and Roosevelt added 17, according to state numbers. Some counties list different numbers because of lags in uploading data at the state level. The Glacier County Health Department on Monday announced 26 new cases while the state reported 16 for the county.

Statewide, 2,393 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness and 108 patients are hospitalized. There have been 10,429 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 160 deaths from the disease in the state since the beginning of the pandemic.

Update 09-16-20

The state reported 190 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Wednesday from 2,035 tests.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced Wednesday that from now on the state will post weekly demographic info about positive COVID-19 cases in schools and universities.

According to the Missoula City-County Health Department, as of Wednesday there are 24 new cases connected with the University of Montana since last week.

2,104 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness statewide. That includes 106 hospitalized patients. Montana has confirmed 9,431 cases of the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Yellowstone County added 82 new cases, Rosebud added 39 and Cascade added 18.

On Tuesday, Crow Tribe Chairman Alvin Not Afraid lifted the stay-at-home order for the tribe, due to the decline in the number of active cases. The tribe's curfew and related travel restrictions remain in place.

The Northern Cheyenne Nation reported Tuesday night that the tribe has seen 41 new cases, 6 deaths and 65 recoveries since last Friday.

Montana Now Reporting School COVID-19 Case Numbers

State health officials Wednesday published information about COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in individual public grade schools and universities. The report shows that 68 of the state’s roughly 147,000 public school students have tested positive for COVID-19, along with another 96 cases in Montana's colleges and universities. Read more

Update 09/15/20

The state reported 139 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Tuesday from 2,474 test results. 1,954 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness statewide. That includes 109 hospitalized patients. Montana has confirmed 9,244 cases of the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Missoula County added 30 new cases today, Rosebud reported 27, Yellowstone 19 and Cascade 17.

The Montana Standard reports that an outbreak at the Connections Correction program for drug treatment in Butte is responsible for 12 of those cases. That’s on top of seven reported cases at that program last week.

Tuesday, the Yellowstone County Health Department reported a man and a woman in their 90s died in senior living homes late last month. The department says the two deaths are being counted for the first time in today’s number of COVID-associated deaths.

Montana's Public Schools Are Out Nearly $800,000 After COVID Aid Rule Change

Public school students in Montana may miss out on roughly $800,000 in federal aid for laptops, masks and educational services amid the coronavirus pandemic. That’s according to a calculation from state education officials after the U.S. Department of Education’s plan for sharing emergency aid with private and home schools was thrown out in court. Read more

Update 09/14/20

A few weeks after opening, some schools are temporarily switching to remote instruction from in-person classes due to positive cases among students and staff. Schools reporting on-site closures include Colstrip Public Schools, Jefferson High School and Great Falls Public Schools.

Colstrip Public Schools announced at least one positive case of COVID-19 among cafeteria staff, who are quarantining, and suspended in-person classes for students until Wednesday. Great Falls Public Schools also went remote until Wednesday. It reports positive COVID cases in its student body. It says that time will allow for contact tracing and cleaning. Jefferson High School said a member of its community tested positive for COVID-19, and so it switched to remote instruction Monday, but will return to in-person Tuesday.

The state reported 86 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus today from 5,746 test results. 2,127 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness statewide. That includes 138 hospitalized patients. Montana has confirmed 9,107 cases of the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Yellowstone County added 27 new cases today, Silver Bow county added 22 and Big Horn County added 9. Cascade County reported 23 new cases over the weekend, and the Missoula County health officer says the county reported about 32 new cases over the weekend.

She points to the county’s two new rapid testing machines and a delay at the state lab as one reason for a discrepancy between its numbers and state numbers.

Yellowstone County has the most active cases at 818. On Monday, the county health department announced that a man in his 70s passed away at a hospital over the weekend due to COVID-19 related illness. The county reports 52 total deaths.

The Flathead City-County Health Department announced Saturday that a 87-year-old care center resident had died in a Kalispell hospital.

138 people in the state have died from the virus.

Update 09/11/20 3:45 p.m.

The Montana state health department reported 124 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Friday from around 1,300 test results.

The Flathead City-County Health Department announced Friday that the county recorded four more deaths related to an outbreak at Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation, a long-term care facility. The facility's executive director has said the outbreak stemmed from an asymptomatic staff member. That brings the total number of deaths there to 10.

At least 131 Montanans have died from the illness since the beginning of the pandemic.

Around 1,900 people are sick with COVID-19 in the state, that includes 142 hospitalized patients.

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Update 09/10/20 5 p.m.

Montana has confirmed 8,663 cases of the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported 196 new lab-confirmed cases of the virus Thursday from 2,203 test results. That’s the second highest number of new cases Montana has reported in one day.

Yellowstone County added 75 new cases today, Rosebud added 25 and both Big Horn and Silver Bow counties added 15 new cases.

In Montana, 1,808 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness. That includes 163 hospitalized patients.123 people have died since the beginning of the pandemic.

Update 09/08/20 5 p.m.

Montana has confirmed 8,381 cases of the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported 66 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Tuesday [09/08] from 1,655 test results.

In Montana, 1,992 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness. That includes 161 hospitalized patients.

The Yellowstone County health department said on Saturday a record 71 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized in area hospitals, including 28 county residents..

Yellowstone also announced several deaths over the last few days. It reports that a senior living facility resident in her 80s passed away from a COVID-related illness in a county hospital Monday. It also reports a woman in her 50s died in a hospital Saturday and another woman in her 50s died Friday. 119 people in the state have died from the virus.

Today, Rosebud County reports the highest number of new cases at 10. Cascade follows at 8 and then Gallatin County at 7. Big Horn, Cascade, Flathead, Rosebud and Yellowstone counties all report more than 100 active cases. Petroleum and Carter are the only counties that have yet not reported a positive case of COVID-19.

Some school districts have discovered positive cases among their student bodies.

Among those are Great Falls Public Schools, which announced a couple of days ago two of its students tested positive. The school together with the health department are conducting contact tracing.

Flathead County City-County Health Department confirmed that 88 students were quarantined due to being contacts of individuals who tested positive. Some of the quarantined students were connected to three students who tested positive over the last few days.

Lincoln County Health Department reported two people who tested positive over the weekend are students at Libby Middle/High School and officials are contact tracing.

Northern Cheyenne Tribal Councilman Lane Spotted Elk announced free testing events are scheduled in every district on the Northern Cheyenne reservation between Wednesday and Friday.

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Update 09/04/20, 7 p.m.

Montana has confirmed 8,019 cases of the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported 149 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Friday from 4,328 test results.

In Montana, 2,084 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness statewide. That includes 150 hospitalized patients. 114 people in the state have died from the virus.

Yellowstone County reports that a woman in her 50s passed away at her home Monday. The Flathead City-County Health Department said one person died in a long-term care facility in connection with a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

Yellowstone County has the most active cases at 1,011 and added 30 new cases today.

Deer Lodge County reported 24. Rosebud reported 16 new cases. Petroleum and Carter are the only counties that have yet not reported a positive case of COVID-19.Deer Lodge County added 24 more cases Friday related to an outbreak at a detention facility. Deer Lodge County Public Health Department confirmed Friday that 42 offenders and 3 staff members at the Sanction, Treatment, Assessment, Revocation and Transition Center north of Anaconda tested positive for COVID-19. START is under contract with the Montana Department of Corrections and serves as a holding and assessment facility for males who have violated conditions of release.

On Thursday, the Yellowstone County Health Officer voided a previous order banning spectators at school sports and issued another order leaving COVID-19 mitigation plans up to school districts.

On Friday, Billings Public Schools announced it would allow two local family members per player at games. As described in a district notice, physical distancing will be required, and face masks must be worn if social distancing between non-household members isn’t possible.

Lewis and Clark County also reversed course and will now allow limited fans at school sporting events.

Update 09/03/20, 5 p.m.

Health officials in Yellowstone County, which reports nearly half of Montana’s active coronavirus cases, are expecting to see a rise in infections now that school has begun. At the same time, the county is relaxing a previous ban on spectators at school sporting events.

Schools statewide have been reporting -- but not always publicly announcing -- positive cases among staff and students since in-class instruction began over the last few weeks.

Yellowstone County Health Officer John Felton said Thursday the health department is seeing the same pattern in Yellowstone County.

"I’m quite anxious about September quite frankly. We know that schools are places of congregation. Places of congregation are where the disease spreads."

Felton said the current benchmarkers that determine whether students continue in-school instruction is in the yellow on a stoplight scale. He said if those indicators trend red, schools may have to consider going back to remote learning.

Despite that, Felton on Thursday reversed a previous ban on fans at school sporting events.

"With the variability of resources and needs, it would make more sense for each district to develop a plan for activities and athletics based on the class in which it participates and its own resources in order to have more consistency across the classes and districts."

Felton also said Yellowstone County hospitalizations account for 43 percent of the state’s 151 current hospitalizations, and while the hospitals have been busy treating positive cases from in and outside the county, they still have capacity.

He also said they’ve hired about a 100 temporary part-time staff to help conduct contact tracing and case investigations, though the county still reports needs beginning to outpace capacity for case investigations, contact tracing and testing capacity.

Statewide, more than 2,000 people are ill with COVID-19. The state health department announced 184 new lab-confirmed cases Thursday from 1,500 test results, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 7,900.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced on Thursday a new loan program to spur economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus, as applications for unemployment assistance increased in Montana for the third consecutive week. The U.S. Employment and Training Administration says nearly 2,400 Montana residents submitted new applications last week, an increase of 3% from the previous week. The Montana Working Capital program will provide loans of up to $500,000 to businesses impacted by the virus. Health officials reported 184 coronavirus cases statewide Thursday.

Update 09/02/20 5:30 p.m.

Montana has confirmed 7,691 cases of the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported 183 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Wednesday from 1,577 test results. In Montana, 1,998 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness. That includes 150 hospitalized patients.

Yellowstone County has 72 new cases today, Rosebud has 31 new cases and Flathead has 15. Yellowstone County has the most active cases at 955. Big Horn, Cascade, Flathead, Rosebud and Yellowstone counties all report more than 100 active cases. Petroleum and Carter are the only counties that have yet not reported a positive case of COVID-19.

109 people in the state have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic.

DPHHS today announced the first death from COVID-19 to occur at Montana State Hospital. DPHHS reports that the patient, who passed Monday, was a resident of Lewis and Clark County, and said it would not share more information for the sake of privacy.

The Flathead City-County Health Department says that four county residents who tested positive reported attending last month’s NorthWest Montana Fair. Event organizers say around 40,000 people attended the fair over its five-day run.

Update 09/01/20 5 p.m.

Montana has confirmed more than 7,500 cases of the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. 105 people in the state have died from the virus.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services reported 93 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Tuesday from 2,058 test results. In Montana, 1,945 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness statewide. That includes 140 hospitalized patients.

Both Yellowstone and Flathead Counties added 12 new cases today. Cascade County added 11. Yellowstone County has the most active cases at 989. Petroleum and Carter are the only counties that have yet not reported a positive case of COVID-19.

The Crow Tribe of Indians signed a resolution yesterday establishing a reservation-wide curfew and restriction of non-essential travel. It’s in effect until Sept. 14.

The Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation yesterday finalized amendments to their August 27 transition into Threat Level 4 on the reservation. Level 4 calls for a stay at home order and curfew to be enforced by law enforcement, requires face coverings when in public spaces, bans social gatherings and limits business and travel to essential only. The Chippewa Cree Business Committee previously established a curfew and have issued temporary restrictions throughout the summer as the virus surged and ebbed through the reservation community.

Update 08/31/20 6:30 p.m.

Montana has confirmed more than 7,400 cases of the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. At least 104 people in the state have died from the virus.

The state reported 82 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus today from 3,577 test results. At least 1,987 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness statewide. That includes 134 hospitalized patients.

Yellowstone County added 27 new cases today, Big Horn county added 13 and Flathead County added 11. Yellowstone County has the most active cases at 976. Over the weekend, the county health department announced that a man in his 90s passed away in a Yellowstone County hospital Friday due to COVID-19-related illness. The county reports 43 total deaths.

Petroleum and Carter are the only counties that have yet not reported a positive case of COVID-19.

On Saturday, Hardin School District announced that multiple students had tested positive for COVID-19. The district wrote in a statement Big Horn County Health Department says the positive confirmations may have a large impact on students and staff that may have come in contact with ill students. The school district reports the students last had in-person contact with students and staff on Thursday.

Colstrip Public Schools announced Saturday a teacher there tested positive. The district says Rosebud County Health Department conducted contact tracing and the school district cleaned the school building.

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe on Saturday announced it would set up road security checkpoints due to rising case counts. In a Facebook post, tribal council member Lane Spotted Elk announced the tribe would establish checkpoints in Lame Deer and then in more areas in the coming days. He asks people to limit non-essential travel. On Monday, he announced 139 active cases, 12 hospitalizations and 4 deaths from the virus within the tribe.

The Blackfeet Reservation also put measures in place to protect against the COVID-19 illness. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council extended its closure of tribal offices until further notice Friday by resolution. It also limited non-business indoor groups to family members, established a $100 fine for failing to follow the mask requirement and set the curfew for non-essential workers to 10 p.m.

Update 08/27/20 4:30 p.m.

Gov. Steve Bullock says Montana will not adhere to a recent change in guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that would stop testing for asymptomatic people, even if they were in close contact with a confirmed case. According to the Associated Press, the CDC director has tried to clarify the recommendation, saying that "testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients. " However, the updated guidance online remains unchanged.

Bullock said during a Thursday press conference that the change in guidance doesn't make sense.

“We can prevent large outbreaks by continuing to test asymptomatic contacts and finding cases earlier."

According to the Associated Press, governors in a handful of other states have also said they will not follow the new controversial coronavirus testing guidelines from the CDC.

Bullock said the state will begin holding asymptomatic testing events again. These events were suspended due to a backlog at the lab that was processing specimens. He said there will be an asymptomatic testing event in Fort Peck next week.

Montana reported 143 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus today from more than 2,347 test results. At least 1,807 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness statewide. That includes 119 patients who are hospitalized.

Yellowstone County added 43 new cases today, and with has about half of all active cases in the state, with 889. Rosebud County added 29 new cases and Gallatin County added 16.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 98 people have died.

Montana had been trending downward in its daily test count since the beginning of August. But after the state health department resolved an electronic reporting error that cleared a backlog, the state’s daily test count is trending upward, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Montana high schools will play football in the fall despite state health officials’ concerns. Health officials from the state’s seven biggest counties had previously asked Montana High School Association officials to consider moving football to the spring. The MHSA decided not to hold a vote for it at a board meeting earlier this month. Missoula Health Officer Ellen Leahy said the MHSA did not consult with public health officials prior to their announcement to play ball come fall. MHSA executive director Mark Beckman said the board deliberated at length whether to postpone the football season.

Update 08/26/20 4 p.m.

Montana reported 162 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus today from 1,753 test results. At least 1,704 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness statewide. That includes 125 patients who are hospitalized.

The state department of corrections is suspending inmate transfers to state prisons from Yellowstone County Detention Center in Billings, Cascade County Detention Center in Great Falls and Big Horn County Jail because all three are experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19. According to corrections spokesperson Carolynn Bright, there’s not a set expiration date for the suspension.

A student in the Hardin School District has tested positive for the virus, according to a news release from Superintendent Eldon Johnson. The release says that a small number of staff and students were in close contact with the person.

The state recorded a death today in Flathead County, although the death was reported by local county officials last weekend. The person who died had been living in a long-term care facility.

Statewide, 97 Montanans have died due to COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Yellowstone County added 48 new cases today today and has roughly half of all active cases in the state, with 847. Flathead County added 32 new cases. Rosebud County added 31 new cases.

Update 08/25/20 4 p.m.

Montana reported 136 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus today from 2,834 test results. At lease 1,636 people are sick with COVID-19 statewide. That includes 119 patients who are hospitalized.

One inmate at the Missoula County Detention Facility has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office. The person had been in contact with a confirmed case and was isolated immediately after booking.

The Cascade County sheriff announced Monday that two employees and 53 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 at the Cascade County Detention Center.

A COVID-19 outbreak has also been reported at the Yellowstone County Detention Center.

Two residents at an assisted living facility in Kalispell have tested positive for COVID-19. Immanuel Lutheran Communities said in a news release that one of the residents initially tested negative, but was later hospitalized for unrelated health issues and tested positive there. Three employees with Immanuel Lutheran tested positive for the virus last week.

Yellowstone County announced that five people on Tuesday over the age of 60 have died due to COVID-19. One death was tied to the outbreak at Canyon Creek Memory Care in Billings, which has now had 17 residents die due to COVID-19. Two of the other reported deaths were also living in long-term care facilities in Yellowstone County, but those facilities were not named.

Stillwater County Public Health announced in a news release that a second person there has died due to the virus. The person was in their 70s and had few underlying conditions.

Statewide, 97 people have died since the beginning of the pandemic.

The superintendent of Hardin public schools, Eldon Johnson, announced in a news release today that bus services in the school district are cancelled for the remainder of the week. The release says the buses do not have all the necessary safety equipment installed.

Update 08/24/20 5 p.m.

Montana reported 52 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Monday. At least 1,556 people are sick with COVID-19 statewide. That includes 114 patients who are hospitalized.

Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said in a news conference Monday that 53 inmates and two employees at the Cascade County Detention Center have tested positive for the virus. Paul Krogue, medical director for the facility, said the jail had taken precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

"But unfortunately with this type of a virus and this type of a setting there was just no way to mitigate that risk to zero."

Slaughter said testing of inmates and staff began after the first positive case was discovered there on Aug. 20. He said the detention center has implemented new isolation procedures and gave inmates masks to wear, which they didn’t have before.

The detention center holds 443 people today, according to its roster.

Yellowstone County officials have announced that around 30 men tested positive for the virus at its jail in Billings.

Big Horn County Senior Living in Hardin announced in a news release Monday that three employees there tested positive for COVID-19. The release says the long-term care facility has been testing asymptomatic employees since July 15 and that practice will continue. Big Horn County has been especially hard hit by the virus and has the second highest number of active cases of any county with 173.

Two more people have died in Yellowstone County due to COVID-19, both were women over the age of 60, according to a news release from Riverstone Health. Yellowstone County has counted 36 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Statewide, there have been 91 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The state reported counting nearly 23,000 tests today, although positive results from most of those tests have already been recorded. The state generally reports no more than a couple thousand tests each day.

Jon Ebelt, spokesperson for the state health department, said the increase is due to an electronic reporting issue that was resolved. The issue had caused a backlog in reporting the full number of daily tests since Aug. 1. Ebelt said the number also ballooned because new labs are running tests. Positive results were caught in a separate reporting system and were not held up in the backlog, Ebelt said.

Ebelt said the reporting issue is partially to blame for the decline in daily test numbers in Montana over the last month, but the state was also running fewer tests because it had to cancel its asymptomatic testing events.

Update 8/23/20 9 p.m.

Montana added more than 200 lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus this weekend from more than 2,000 tests run, according to the state health department.

One hundred eleven people are currently hospitalized with the respiratory illness caused by the virus and 90 people have died from it, according to state data.

On Saturday the Flathead City-County Health Department announced a resident at a long term care facility, where a COVID-19 outbreak had been identified, died. The department said it will NOT release the name of the facility or further details at this time.

More than 30 inmates at the Yellowstone County jail in Billings have tested positive for COVID-19.

Sheriff Mike Linder said Friday about 30 of 70 men in one housing unit tested positive. He says they are not showing symptoms. Four women also tested positive after showing symptoms. Patients were moved into isolation.

Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter says an inmate tested positive for COIVD-19 after showing symptoms. Other inmates are being tested.

County health departments are warning residents to take extra caution, like staying home more than usual and wearing a mask when in public spaces, as classes start up for many schools this week.

Park County Health Officer Laurel Desnick says if students do get COVID-19 it’s most likely they will get it at home from the grownups in their lives.

Montana has reported more than 6,400 known cases of COVID-19.

Update 08/21/20 5 p.m.

Montana reported 142 new lab confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Friday from 1,067 test results.

More than 1,300 people are sick with COVID-19 statewide. That includes 97 patients who are hospitalized. About 6 percent of all cases in Montana have resulted in a hospitalization, according to the state health department.

Three employees working at a Kalispell assisted-living facility have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release from Immanuel Lutheran Communities. The cases were discovered as part of a required employee-testing program.

One Immanuel Lutheran resident tested positive in July, but other residents have since tested negative.

The Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell reported today that 14 residents and staff at nursing home Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation have tested positive for COVID-19. Montana Public Radio was not able to independently confirm the information.

Missoula officials announced today that a third person in the county has died due to the virus. The county health department did not release additional details about the death.

Yellowstone County added the most new cases of any county Friday with 51. The county continues to see the highest number of active cases with 677. Flathead County added 17 new cases, and Big Horn and Rosebud counties both added 15.

Phillips County has had one of the highest rates of new cases per resident in the country, according to a New York Times analysis.

The state has recorded 89 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Petroleum and Carter counties are the only two that have yet to report a single case of COVID-19.

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Update 08/20/20 5 p.m.

Montana reported 117 new lab confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus today from 1,027 test results.

The state added five new deaths today. Yellowstone County announced that a man and a woman both in their 60s died after being hospitalized due to COVID-19. The county now tallies 34 deaths. Big Horn County also added two deaths and Rosebud County added one, according to state data. The state has recorded 89 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Twenty-five counties have four or more active cases of the virus, meaning they’re subject to the statewide mask mandate.

At least 1,549 people are sick with COVID-19 statewide including 101 patients who are hospitalized.

Yellowstone County added the most new cases today with 42, and the county continues to see the highest number of active cases with 690. Flathead County added 18 new cases, Rosebud County added 13 and Phillips County added eight.

The daily number of new cases in Montana has begun to plateau over the past couple of weeks. The daily number of new tests has declined during the same time period, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The Montana University System will consider a variety of factors to determine whether college campuses become unsafe for in-person classes this fall amid the pandemic. A higher education official told state lawmakers Thursday that universities need to stay flexible.

Rep. Tom Woods, a Democrat from Bozeman and an instructor at Montana State University, asked Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education Brock Tessman during an interim committee if there’s a set threshold that would trigger campuses to close for in-person classes.

Tessman said there’s not, but that university system officials will watch the number of new cases, hospitalizations, and a college’s capacity to test and trace the virus, among other factors.

“The recipe is complex and we want to maintain flexibility in terms of our decision making," Tessman said.

If an outbreak does occur, Tessman said closures could happen in phases. For example, a single classroom could move to online learning while the rest of campus remains open.

Montana’s two largest universities began their fall semesters this week.

Producer Partnership Seeks 400 Cows To Donate To Montana Food Centers

After years of declining, Montana’s food insecurity rate is up more than 50 percent. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 165,000 people in the state could go hungry this year. That’s an estimated 56,000 more people than before the crisis. Now, a rancher from Park County is rallying support to do something about it. Read more

Update 08/19/20 5:15 p.m.

Montana reported 111 new lab confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus today from 1,021 test results.

Big Horn County added its 14th death due to the virus. The man was in his 60s and had been hospitalized prior to his death.

Yellowstone County added the most new cases today, with 56. The county has by far the most active cases at 650.

At least 1,515 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness statewide, including 102 patients who are hospitalized.

The number of new daily cases in Montana has started to plateau over the last few weeks, according to the COVID Tracking Project. However, the state’s daily count of new tests has also declined. The state has seen a steady increase in active hospitalizations since early July.

Montana Candidates Split Over Mask Mandate

Montana’s mask mandate is now just over a month old. While public health experts and studies say masks are key to slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, some people are pushing-back against the rule. Candidates for governor and attorney general also have opposing views on the role of state government during the pandemic. Read more

Update 08/18/20 4 p.m.

Montana reported 57 new lab confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus today from 787 test results. At least 1,556 people are sick with COVID-19 statewide including 97 patients who are hospitalized. The state has recorded 84 deaths due to the virus since the pandemic began.

Cascade and Roosevelt counties each added a new death today. The Cascade City-County Health Department announced that a man over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions was the fifth person in the county to die from the virus. The Roosevelt County Health Department posted on Facebook that officials had confirmed that county’s first death due to the virus. No additional details were released.

The tribal health board for the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation voted unanimously Monday to revert the reservation back to phase one of reopening. Stricter rules will be in place for the next two weeks, including a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and the closure of tribal buildings and casinos.

Kaci Wallette, a member of both the health board and tribal executive board, said tribal officials had previously decided that a count of 10 active cases or more would trigger more stringent rules. Wallet said the reservation had confirmed 14 active cases before Monday’s vote.

Montana Families May Be Eligible For More Food Assistance

Montana has distributed more than $20 million in federal aid to keep school aged children fed during pandemic. State health and education officials are urging more families to apply for nutrition assistance.

Montana families who lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to school closures during the 2019-2020 school year have about a month left to apply for money to help repay the costs of meals.

The federal Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer, or P-EBT program, launched earlier this year in response to COVID-19. It offers a one-time-only reimbursement of $330 per school-aged child/per household.

Montana health and education department officials say over 61,000 children in the state have benefitted from the program. They say thousands more are likely eligible. To qualify, children must attend schools that participate in the National School Lunch program.

Applications must be submitted no later than September 21.

Update 08/17/20 5:00 p.m.

Montana reported 43 new lab confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus today from 2,801 test results.

At least 1,548 people are sick with the COVID-19 illness statewide, including 94 patients who are hospitalized. The state has recorded 82 deaths due to the virus since the pandemic began.

Flathead County added the most new cases on Monday, with 15. Yellowstone County continues to see the highest number of known positive cases in the state with 648 active. Big Horn County has the second highest number of active cases, with 231.

The state confirmed more than 200 new cases over the weekend.

The state of Montana has applied for federal grant money to add $400 per week to individual unemployment benefits.

President Donald Trump ordered the boost in payments a week ago. People had been receiving an added $600 per week in unemployment payments under the CARES Act, but that expired at the end of July.

Trump directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make $44 billion available to states from its Disaster Relief Fund to help pay for the $400 boost, and asked states to kick in a quarter of the cost. Montana will use federal coronavirus relief funds to pay its share.

According to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, the $400 boost in benefits could end in a matter of weeks if FEMA funding runs out or if Congress creates a new assistance program. The payments will expire no later than Dec. 27.

More than 36,000 people filed an unemployment claim in Montana for the week ending Aug. 1, according to the state.

Update 08/14/20 5:30 p.m.

Montana is reporting 134 new lab confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus today from 2,041 test results.At least 1,449 people are sick with COVID-19 statewide including 86 patients who are hospitalized. The state has recorded 81 deaths due to the virus since the pandemic began.

Missoula County added its second death due to the virus. The Missoula City-County Health Department did not release any additional information about the resident who died. The county added 11 new cases today and has 122 that are active.

Yellowstone County continues to see the highest number of positive cases in the state at 579 active. Big Horn County has the second highest number of cases at 194 active.

Carter and Petroleum counties are the only two in Montana that have not reported a single case of COVID-19.

The state’s seven-day rolling average of daily tests has declined over the last week although the seven-day average of new positive cases is more than 100 per day, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Missoula County Public School officials have mapped out the first four weeks of the upcoming school year. It will implement a blend of remote and physical classroom instruction.

Superintendent Rob Watson today said that so-called "hybrid" model includes staggered classes, a strict regime of physical distancing, mandatory mask use and regular deep cleaning of facilities.

How, or if, protocols change after the first month of instruction will depend on COVID-19 case counts within the district.

Officials are bracing for a greater demand for childcare in the wake of these significant changes. Boys and Girls Club of Missoula County, Missoula YMCA and City Parks and Rec are all coordinating with the school system to offer expanded services and financial assistance to qualifying families. Those and other local childcare providers are following similar health precautions as the school system.

Gov. Steve Bullock this week announced $50 million will be available to increase childcare services in response to COVID-19.

Update 08/13/20 5:30 p.m.

Montana is reporting 142 new lab confirmed cases of the coronavirus today from 1,784 test results announced this morning. There are now 1,389 active cases of the respiratory illness in the state. Only Carter and Petroleum counties have not reported lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic

Yellowstone County had the highest number of new cases at 37, followed by Big Horn County at 13, Gallatin at 12 and Phillips at 11.

Yellowstone County has the most active cases with 546 with Big Horn County second at 189. 101 people are hospitalized statewide.

The death of a Yellowstone County man brings the total number of deaths in the state to 81. A press release says the man was in his 60s and was hospitalized at the time of his death.

Malmstrom Air Base in Cascade County lowered its COVID threat level from Charlie to Bravo this week. According to the air force, that means it’s loosening some restrictions because transmission on the base is low. Changes include allowing socially-distant dining at restaurants if seated outside and socially-distant gatherings of up to 100 people outside or 30 people inside. Masks are still required.

New applications for unemployment assistance declined in Montana last week.

The U.S. Employment and Training Administration says 1,611 people filed new applications during the week ending Aug. 8, a decrease of 14% from the week before.

Just over 135,000 people have been unemployed at some point since the pandemic began, which represents nearly 30% of the workforce that is eligible for unemployment insurance.

The Montana Department of Labor made 35,900 unemployment payments totaling over $17.5 million last week, the first week that the additional $600 in federal unemployment benefits were no longer available. Previous weekly payments had been over $40 million.

Update 08/12/20 6 p.m.

Montana reported another 175 lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus from 1,624 test results announced this morning.

Yellowstone, Ravalli and Flathead counties each announced a new death related to COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 80 since the since the start of the pandemic. A total of 97 people are currently hospitalized with the respiratory illness.

Yellowstone County’s health department says due to an electronic reporting error, most of the 75 cases reported in its region today are from tests conducted as far back as August 1.

The state’s 7-day rolling average of new tests has dropped over the past week even as the average number of new cases over the same period has held at more than 100 a day, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

'Priority' COVID-19 Testing Can Still Mean Long Waits For Results

A Kalispell assisted-living facility breathed a small sigh of relief Wednesday when its residents’ COVID-19 tests came back negative. Those results took more than a week to return. Read more

Gov. Bullock Extends Mask Mandate To Schools In Qualifying Counties

Gov. Steve Bullock changed his stance on masks in schools Wednesday, and the governor is now directing students attending class in counties with four or more COVID-19 cases to wear masks.

Bullock issued a mid-July directive mandating Montanans wear masks inside businesses and other public buildings that reside in counties with four or more COVID-19 cases. The directive did not apply to schools at that time, he said. Read more

New Grants Available for Live Entertainment Businesses Hit By Pandemic

Montana is allocating new economic assistance for businesses in the live entertainment industry.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Aug. 12 announced the state will expand grants using federal coronavirus relief dollars to prop up businesses hurting from the economic downturn sparked by the pandemic. Read more.

Updated 8/11/2020 at 9:00 p.m.

Montana is reporting 97 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus from just over 1,000 test results announced on Tuesday.

That brings the statewide total to nearly 1,500 people now sick with the COVID-19 illness, including 77 current hospitalizations.

Big Horn County has been especially hard hit and on Monday announced the county’s 13th death from the virus: A man in his 70s who had been hospitalized prior to his death. Lewis and Clark Public Health announced the county’s second COVID-19 related death today, giving no further details.

The state health department reports 77 people across Montana have died from the coronavirus. State and county numbers will not always match up, in part because of timelines for reporting the data.

Phillips County added 27 new cases for a total of 55. Yellowstone County added 21

All but two of Montana's 56 counties have now recorded a case of the virus.

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry sent out $17.5 million in unemployment payments last week, down from more than $40 million the week prior.

This is the first week of payments without the additional $600 weekly benefit authorized by the CARES Act.

The number of people filing unemployment claims in Montana spiked in late March and April during government mandated business closures.

Nearly 45,000 people filed an unemployment claim the week ending July 25, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor and Industry.

Update 08/10/20 5:15 p.m.

Montana surpassed 5,000 known COVID-19 cases and has reported 75 deaths. Yellowstone County officials say two of the most recent deaths involved residents of long-term care facilities, including the 16th death tied to an outbreak at Canyon Creek Memory Care. A woman in her 80s who lived at Canyon Creek died at a Billings hospital last week. A man in his 90s died at another senior care facility. Officials did not name the facility. Eighty people are hospitalized with the respiratory virus, including 44 in Yellowstone County.

Northern Cheyenne President Rynalea Pena on Sunday ordered a reservation-wide lockdown through Wednesday, August 19, citing a surge in COVID-19 cases and people not following existing health mandates meant to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The heightened order implements road checkpoints on tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs roads and will phase-in controlled access onto the reservation in south-east Montana. Travel is restricted to essential needs only and non-residents will be asked to leave the reservation, according to the new order.

The tribe’s stay-at-home order will continue when the lockdown lifts Aug. 17. The stay-at-home order calls for face coverings when in public spaces, a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and a recommendation for tribal members to avoid coronavirus ‘hot spots’ like Yellowstone and Big Horn counties.

The Chippewa Cree Tribe is also under lockdown until Wednesday morning. The Crow Nation is under lockdown until August 21.

CSKT Stay-At-Home Order Lifted

Employees of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes went back to work Monday as a stay at home order on the reservation was lifted. There are still restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The CSKT Tribal Council decided back in late June that the stay-at-home order would be lifted July 13, but a spike in COVID-19 cases throughout Lake County following the July 4 holiday delayed the rollback. Read more

Phillips County’s resident population spiked from zero cases of the novel coronavirus to 48 over the last week, according to the Phillips County Health Department Facebook page. The health department says its staff is investigating the cases. It’s closed its offices this week and postponed services like immunizations.

Keystone XL pipeline developer, TC Energy, reported two of its workers tested positive for coronavirus in late July. Spokesperson Sara Rabern says those are the two only cases TC Energy discovered among its workers in Montana, and it’s confident it’s not the cause for the current case count in Phillips County.

The company says it put protocol in place to prevent the introduction or spread of coronavirus in the area, including quarantining workers before they enter worksites.

Update 08/07/20 7:03 p.m.

Montana reported 155 new lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Friday, and just over 1,500 active cases of the respiratory illness.

The Cascade County Health Department announced its fourth death due to the illness on the same day. The over-65 man had underlying health conditions. The death was related to a recent outbreak at a Cascade County long-term care facility, according to the department.

Flathead and Yellowstone counties saw the biggest jump in new cases, with both adding 21 on Friday. Missoula County followed with 20, and Phillips County reported 16 new cases.

Only three counties report no lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19: Carter, Petroleum and Mineral.

The Toole County Health Department is warning people who attended a recent car show that they may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.

Health officials said contact tracing investigations discovered several people who recently tested positive - and were in the early part of their incubation - were at the Shelby Car Show the first weekend of August.

The department says those in attendance may have been exposed to the virus at the event. It advised people to watch for symptoms such as headache, cough, sore throat, body aches and chills through August 15, and to call their provider if they develop symptoms.

Toole County is reporting 10 active cases of COVID-19.

Virus Spread Forces Lockdown On Crow Reservation

The Crow Tribe ordered its members to lock down for two weeks beginning Friday, as tribal leaders moved to slow a sharp spike in coronavirus cases and deaths on yet another reservation in the country. Read more

Collegiate Football's Big Sky Conference Postponed Til Spring

The Big Sky Conference has postponed its football season to spring 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The conference includes Montana State University and the University of Montana. Read more

Postal Service Loses $2.2B In 3 months As Virus Woes Persist

The U.S. Postal Service says it lost $2.2 billion in the three months that ended in June as the beleaguered agency — hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic — piles up financial losses that officials warn could top $20 billion over two years.

But the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, disputed reports that his agency is slowing down election mail, or any other mail, and said it has “ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on time” for the November presidential contest, when a significant increase in mail-in ballots is expected. Read more

Update 08/06/20 5 p.m.

Health officials in Cascade county say a third resident has died due to a COVID-19 outbreak at a long-term care facility in the area. The Cascade City-County health department has not named the facility.

Local and state health officials have continued to warn of the virus’ threat to the elderly amid the recent surge in cases. According to the most recent state health department analysis from the end of July, people age 60 and over accounted for more than 95 percent of the deaths in Montana from the virus.

Nationwide, 8 out of 10 COVID-19 related deaths are among adults aged 65 and older, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. OK's All Mail Voting
Kevin Trevellyan - Yellowstone Public Radio

Montana counties can now conduct all-mail-ballot general elections in November, thanks to a directive issued by Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday.

During a press call, the governor said it is increasingly unlikely the coronavirus pandemic will subside enough by November to hold a traditional polling place election without serious risk to public health.

“It only makes sense that we start preparing now to ensure that no Montanan will have to choose between their vote or their health,” Bullock said.

In July, county clerks and recorders asked Bullock to allow counties the option of an all-mail-ballot election to avoid crowding and increased exposure to the virus. They said it may be difficult to secure polling places for a traditional election, and that hundreds of election workers would sit out due to health concerns.

County elections officials made a similar request to conduct the June 2 primary by mail. Bullock agreed, issuing a similar directive then, and every county opted in.

The all-mail-ballot primary, the first in Montana history, saw a record turnout that was 10% higher than the last presidential primary election.

Bullock said mail ballots for the general election will go out Oct. 9, adding Montanans will still have the option to vote in-person in all counties.

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State Will Spend $20 Million To Support University Reopenings
Kevin Trevellyan - Yellowstone Public Radio

Montana is sending up to $20 million in federal coronavirus relief to the state’s public universities to support reopening efforts this fall.

During a press call with Gov. Steve Bullock, State Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian said the university system will prioritize rapid testing, quarantining and contact tracing of symptomatic individuals.

“Our research and consultations have led to testing strategies that focus on trying to keep individual cases from turning into clusters, and to try and keep clusters from turning into bigger outbreaks,” Christian said.

The commissioner did not have an estimate for how many students and faculty will be tested each day, but said Montana State University will process results around the clock. Bullock said there needed to be a two- to three-day turnaround on test results.

The university system is also working to boost testing capacity for asymptomatic people, according to Christian.

He emphasized that testing is only one component of coronavirus safety. Students must also socially distance, wear masks, wash hands regularly and self-screen daily.

Christian said the testing strategy will require a significant increase in staffing and partnerships with local public health entities.

Two Keystone XL Construction Workers Test Positive For Coronavirus

The developer of the Keystone XL oil pipeline confirmed Aug. 5 that two of its workers in northern Montana tested positive for the novel coronavirus last week.

In a statement, pipeline developer TC Energy says the first pipe yard worker tested positive at a local clinic last July 28 and the company took protective measures when it learned about the results. That included shutting down activity at the site in Phillips County. Read more.

Update 08/05/20 5 p.m.

Montana reports two more deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state’s death total to 66. Richland County Health Department reports a woman in her 80s has died. Yellowstone County’s health department reports a man in his 60s died early Wednesday morning in a Yellowstone County hospital.

Today Montana reported 115 new lab confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with Yellowstone County reporting the most with 25 new cases and Gallatin and Big Horn County each reporting 13. Phillips County, which previously reported being COVID-free, now has five new cases.

The state is reporting more than 1,500 active cases, with nearly 600 of those located in Yellowstone County.

Update 08/04/20, 6:15 p.m.

A long-term care facility in Cascade County has an outbreak of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The Cascade City-County Health Department Tuesday reports 6 COVID-19 cases associated with the unnamed facility.

The department isn’t naming the facility, citing health privacy laws. Local officials say they're working with the facility to prevent further spread.

While the bulk of Montana’s recent cases are people in their 20s, people over 60 make up the majority of the state’s COVID-19 related deaths. Outbreaks have ravaged senior care facilities in Toole and Yellowstone county.

Montana is reporting 82 new lab confirmed bases of the coronavirus today, and nearly 15-hundred active cases of the respiratory illness. Big Horn County had the highest number of new cases at 15, followed by Lewis and Clark at 11, Flathead at 9 and Yellowstone at 8.

Sixty-four people have died of the virus in the state and 780 are hospitalized. Yellowstone County has the most active cases with 567, with Big Horn County second with 213. Prairie County reported its first active case. Only Petroleum, Phillips, Mineral and Carter counties report no lab confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Update 08/03/20, 5:35 p.m.

COVID-19 Leads To Changes In Fire Camps, Community Briefings

Wildland firefighters already follow a lengthy list of safety and wardrobe rules: the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has just made it a little longer.

New sleeping arrangements, meal deliveries and personal gear have all become part of the summer routine, according to Mike Goicoechea, a Type-I incident commander with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Region. And while Montana has yet to engage in the typical August smoke and flames, crews have already got experience with the new protocols on fires in the Southwest. Read more

Billings Shuts City Hall, Library After Employees Infected

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Officials in Billings shut down city hall and the public library for cleaning after three public employees in Montana’s largest city tested positive for the coronavirus.

City hall was scheduled to re-open to the public Thursday following cleaning work and then operate two days a week under limited hours until August 17.

The library was to stay closed to the public until August 17.

The move came after two custodial employees and one information technology employees tested positive for the coronavirus, Billings officials said. It was unclear where or when they contracted the virus.

State Says Montana Rental Assistance Program Largely Unused

Montana set aside $50 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to help people make their rent or mortgage payments during the economic upheaval caused by coronavirus. But through the end of July the program has paid out just over $1.2 million, about 2.4% of the available funds, state figures show.

So far, about 750 Montana residents have submitted valid applications for the funding, a fraction of the 131,000 who have applied for unemployment at some point since mid-March as the pandemic ravaged the global economy. Read more

The state reported a total of 1,516 active cases Monday, including 69 hospitalizations. There have been 64 COVID-19 deaths in Montana.

Update 07/31/20, 6:08 p.m.

Montana officials reported 153 new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the state’s total number of active cases to just over 1,500.

State numbers showed 71 current hospitalizations, and 60 coronavirus-related deaths. Roughly 2,300 people are considered recovered.

Gov. Steve Bullock’s office issued an educational directive Friday. It relaxed in-person learning requirements for students, who are starting a new school years amid coronavirus concerns.

The governor’s order waived a law requiring students living outside the school districts they attend to physically go to class. The move means a remote-learning choice is now available to more students: Children who live in the same county as their school district, or in a neighboring school district, can now opt for distance learning.

In-classroom learning for the coming school was part of Montana’s phased reopening plan announced last April. The new directive is meant to give schools flexibility in balancing remote learning with in-person learning, Bullock said.

He explained school districts can now decide whether students return for in-person instruction, virtual learning or a hybrid of the two.

Update 07/30/20, 6 p.m.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana health officials have announced two more deaths due to COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 57. The Big Horn County health department reports that two men in their 60s died after contracting the virus.

The state reported 138 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, for a total of 3,814 since the pandemic began. Thirty-four people have died from COVID-19 in Montana since July 6, including 13 in the past seven days.

The economic fallout from the coronavirus has hurt the state. Officials say just over 2,300 people applied for unemployment benefits last week, a decrease from the previous week.

Kalispell Assisted Living Facility Announces Positive COVID-19 Test

An independent and assisted living facility in Kalispell announced one of its residents has tested positive for COVID-19. The facility is home to roughly 300 residents who live in apartments or private rooms. Read more

Update 07/29/20 5:20 p.m.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) & Corin Cates-Carney

Montana officials announced two more deaths due to COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths related to the respiratory virus in the state to 54. More than half of the deaths have happened since July 6.

During a press conference in the governor’s office Wednesday, state officials addressed young people’s role in the pandemic and the importance of face coverings in slowing the spread of the virus.

Caty Gondeiro, a 23-year-old from Helena, tested positive for COVID-19 in early July. She spoke during the press conference.

"I think it’s really important that people my age, in the 20-29 age group to understand that we’re driving the spread of this."

According to the latest state health department analysis of COVID-19 cases, people in the 20 to 29 age group make up 28 percent of all cases in Montana - the most common age group infected with the virus.

The analysis says no one in the age group has died from the virus in Montana and persons who required hospitalization for COVID-19 are generally much older than those who did not need hospital care.

Montana schools preparing to reopen this fall have until this Friday to apply for the first round of funding to cover costs associated with the pandemic.

Gov. Steve Bullock said during today's press conference that public and accredited private schools can request the aid. The $75 million dollars available to help schools reopen comes from the federal CARES Act.

The money can be used for adapting schools and helping students, parents and educators create a place for students to learn amid the complications of COVID-19.

A second deadline for the funds is August 14. The governor says payments will be made to schools in August.

Montana election officials are calling on Gov. Steve Bullock to allow counties the option of running the November election by mail. Bullock said Wednesday that he’ll decide by August 10.

"Those discussions will be occurring soon to ensure that they have enough time to prepare for a safe election."

Montana clerks and recorders made a similar request to conduct the June 2 primary by mail due to concerns of crowds at polling places and exposure to the novel coronavirus. Bullock agreed and every county opted for all-mail ballot elections.

According to the Secretary of State’s office election calendar, ballots must be sent to military and overseas electors by September 18. Other absentee ballots must be available for in-person voting by October 5.

Update 07/28/20, 5:30 p.m.

The Montana health department announced 41 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. Two counties announced deaths from COVID-19. The Yellowstone County health department says a woman in her 90s died at a Billings hospital on Saturday. The woman's death was the 18th in 20 days in the county. Lincoln County on Sunday received report of a COVID-19 related death there, a man in his 80s.Montana's total number of reported cases is nearing 3,400, and 61 people are hospitalized. More than 1,200 people are still infected.

The Montana University System’s Board of Regents finalized COVID-19 guidelines for public higher education across the state today. Work to coordinate how those guidelines will play out is ongoing.

The guidelines for the 16 universities and colleges within the state’s higher-ed system cover everything from campuses’ ability to mandate face coverings to how schools will isolate students who test positive.

The Board unanimously voted in favor of the guidelines and gave University System Commissioner Clayton Christian the ability to adapt those guidelines as conditions in the state change.

With just three weeks to go until classes start, Deputy Commissioner Brock Tessman says officials are still working on strategies for testing and educating students on new protocols and rules.

"This is probably going to be the biggest student-based communication campaign we’ve ever engaged in. I think that highlights how important it is to our campuses to make sure students understand what it’s going to take."

Most campuses across the state will begin classes the third week of August.

Update 07/27/20, 5 p.m.

Montanans traveling to Washington, D.C. for non-essential reasons must now quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Montana is considered a COVID-19 hotspot based on criteria set by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a traveler self-quarantine order effective today.

Find More Montana coronavirus & COVID-19 news and see what's open and what's closed due to coronavirus in Montana.

Get more Montana coronavirus information from the state health department, as well as updates from the CDC and tips for preventing and dealing with COVID-19.