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Montana Coronavirus And COVID-19 News

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

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.

D.C.’s “high risk” definition matches one set by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut last week: anywhere where the seven-day moving average of daily new COVID-19 cases is 10 or more per 100,000 persons.

People who are self-quarantining are instructed to not leave the house except to access medical care or obtain food and other essential goods, not allow guests into their place of quarantine and to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

Idaho and North Dakota also made the list of states considered “high risk” for a total of 27.

Montana had a similar quarantine for some visitors in the early months of the pandemic. The policy was rolled back in early June.

Montana testing confirmed more than 350 cases of COVID-19 over the weekend while the state reported its 47th death due to the respiratory virus.

The state reported a record 224 cases on Saturday, 89 on Sunday and 41 on Monday. Just over 1,200 people are known to be infected with the coronavirus.

Ronan Couple Struggles To Recover From COVID Infection

Four months later, life is still not the same for Heather and her wife, Wren. They’re not sure if it will ever be again.

“We’re about 90% better, but we still have some lingering symptoms,” she told the Missoulian. “You’re not over it in three weeks like the flu, that’s for sure. I got it in mid-March, and I still don’t have my full lung capacity back.” Read more

The Montana High School Association released a plan today outlining how fall sports and activities could resume amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The plan includes calls to forego out-of-state competitions, require social distancing of 6 feet on the field or court when possible, and practice in “pods” where the same players are working out together to limit overall exposure.

Face coverings must be worn per Gov. Steve Bullock’s directive, which exempts situations of strenuous physical exercise, swimming or when giving a musical or theatrical performance for an audience.

The memo sent by the association's Executive Director Mark Beckman says schools will have to follow the new requirements, along with the governor’s directives and directives from local health departments, for fall activities to return.

The memo outlines specific guidelines for different sports and activities. Rules for fan attendance at those events will be determined by local schools with input from local health departments.

Updated 07/24/20, 4:30 p.m.

Montana has crossed the 3,000 mark of total confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 130 new cases and two more COVID-19 deaths were reported statewide Friday.

One of the deaths was at Canyon Creek Memory Care in Billings, where nearly every resident has been infected and more than a quarter have died.

The second death is in Cascade County, which has seen its case numbers rise in recent days. According to a Cascade City-County Health Department post on Facebook, the county’s 20 new cases are attributed to community spread or have been found through contact tracing. Most of the new cases there are individuals in their 20s. A Malmstrom Air Force Base spokesperson said in a Facebook live event Thursday that there are confirmed cases on base, but did not say how many.

Powell County Health Officer Resigns Over COVID-19 Politics

At least two public health workers across the state have resigned due to disagreements with elected officials and the public over restrictions aimed at keeping the coronavirus pandemic in check. Lori Drumm is a family practitioner at the Deer Lodge Medical clinic and for about another week, Powell County’s public health officer. MTPR’s Aaron Bolton spoke with Drumm about her resignation. Read more

Growing Inmate Numbers Fuel COVID-19 Concerns In Montana's Already Crowded Jails

County jail populations dropped this spring as the state reacted to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Now, with cases of COVID-19 on the rise, inmate populations in several of Montana’s largest county jails are growing and cell blocks are crowded. Some advocates are calling for more action to reduce the number of people locked up during this time. But local sheriffs say they’re balancing virus risks and public safety. It’s all leaving some inmates worried about their health. Read more

Crow Tribal Police Initiate Temporary Safety Checks To Curb COVID-19 Spread

This week the Crow Tribe Police Department announced safety checks and traffic stops through Aug. 2 to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

On July 21 the Crow Tribal Health Department told Chief of Police Terrill Bracken that 457 individuals on the Crow Reservation had been asked to self quarantine after receiving a positive COVID-19 test result or being directly exposed to someone with the virus. Read more

Updated 07/23/20, 3 p.m.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana has confirmed 97 more cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths, including the 14th death related to an outbreak at a memory care facility in Billings, state officials said Thursday.

A man in his 70s died Wednesday at the Canyon Creek Memory Care facility, Yellowstone County health officials said.

“The harsh reality of the increasing number of deaths in this senior care residence is heartbreaking, but our pain is nothing compared to every family member who has lost someone to this tragic disease," county health officer John Felton said.

The facility had 59 residents when the outbreak was discovered in late June. The 14 deaths have occurred over 17 days beginning July 6.

Lake County announced its first COVID-19 death, a man in his 70s who had been hospitalized, county health officials said.

Forty-four people overall have died of complications due to COVID-19 in Montana, with nearly half of the deaths tied to long-term care facilities. Fifty-four people are hospitalized, state officials said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Montana’s known cases have topped 2,900 since the pandemic began and nearly 1,300 people are known to be currently infected, including more than 500 in Yellowstone County. The number of infections is thought to be much higher because many people have not been tested.

Updated 07/22/20, 5:20 p.m.

(AP) Montana health officials reported two more deaths related to COVID-19 and confirmed another 104 cases.

The Yellowstone County health department said a man in his 60s died at his home on Tuesday. The Sweet Grass County health department announced Tuesday that a man in his 80s died at a hospital.

Montana has had 42 deaths due to the respiratory virus and 52 people are hospitalized. The state has had more than 2,800 people test positive for COVID-19 and just over 1,200 are currently known to be infected.

The number of infections is thought to be much higher because many people have not been tested.

MSU Steps In To Help With COVID Surveillance Testing

As COVID-19 cases are surging across the county and monitoring for the virus hits a national backlog, Montana is turning to a local university to help with COVID-19 testing.

Montana State University will start processing COVID-19 tests for the state next week, according to the governor’s office, and will be able to test up to 500 asymptomatic individuals a day. Read more

Updated 07/21/20, 4:06 p.m.

The Yellowstone County health department is reporting that a 13th person has died because of a COVID-19 outbreak at a memory care facility in Billings. RiverStone Health reports the woman in her 90s died Monday at Canyon Creek Memory Care.

Yellowstone County's health department has hired 25 temporary workers to help with contact tracing as the county deals with the state's largest outbreak of COVID-19.

Next door, Big Horn County set a local record with 12 new cases of the virus Monday. According to a press release from the county, one of those cases was likely contracted through community spread, meaning it’s not clear how the person became infected.

The Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls this week stepped up its precautions due to the statewide rise in COVID-19 infections. Masks are now required for all active duty members when off base and in any indoor facility. Masks are also required inside buildings on base when individuals are not sitting at their own desk.

Montana reported 97 new cases of COVID-19 statewide Tuesday. That raises the total number of cases since the pandemic began to over 2,700. Currently there are nearly 1,200 active cases, with 49 hospitalizations. Forty people have died so far.

Montana Universities Plan For Fall Return Amid Pandemic

With the fall semester fast approaching, colleges and universities in Montana are preparing to offer a mix of in person, online and hybrid courses to keep students safe from COVID-19. YPR News’ Jess Sheldahl reviewed state, tribal and private institutions’ reopening plans and shares her reporting with Nicky Ouellet. Read more

Crow Leaders Request Federal Support For Law Enforcement, Health Care

Crow tribal leaders met with Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines on July 17 to request support for the new tribal police department’s operations and novel Coronavirus surge planning.

Daines toured a closed Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) jail in Crow Agency with members of the Crow Executive Branch, Crow Tribal Police, BIA Police and high ranking local judges. Read more

Updated 07/20/20, 5:29 p.m.

Two more deaths have been tied to an outbreak of COVID-19 at a Billings long-term care facility. Twelve residents at Canyon Creek Memory Care have now died from COVID-19 in the past two weeks.

The Yellowstone County health department says a woman in her 80s died Saturday and a man in his 80s died Sunday, both at Canyon Creek.

Montana confirmed another 256 cases of COVID-19 in test results announced Saturday, Sunday and Monday, bringing the state total to over 2,600 known cases.

There are 1,248 active cases in Montana, with 48 people hospitalized. To date, the state has reported 39 deaths due to COVID-19.

Two Rural Health Officials Announce Resignations Over Local COVID-19 Response

Over the past month, health officers in two rural Montana counties have resigned over disagreements with county officials and residents over local coronavirus response plans.

Ravalli County Health Officer Dr. Carol Calderwood gave her resignation letter to county commissioners this weekend, over what she called “locally elected officials’ decision to disobey the Governor’s Directives without my input.” Read more

Updated 07/17/20, 5:40 p.m.

For the third day in a row, Montana has added more than 100 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. That brings the state’s total number of active infections to more than 2,300. Rural counties in the northwest corner of the state are seeing large spikes in cases.

COVID-19 Spike Tied To Fourth Of July Weekend, Health Officials Say

While most of the newest COVID-19 cases have come from the more populous Missoula and Yellowstone counties, health officials in northwest Montana say a steep rise in cases stems from Fourth of July holiday gatherings. Read more

Expect A Rough Rest Of July For COVID-19, Health Official Says

When and where are masks required? How is testing and contract tracing working? Why is asymptomatic testing ending in Montana? And what's going on in Yellowstone County, "the epicenter of the pandemic in Montana"? Read more

Records: Montana Governor Feared Backlash Over Mask Mandate

Gov. Steve Bullock's statewide mask mandate came after hundreds of Montana residents, business owners and health care leaders demanded the move as virus cases mounted in the state, records obtained by The Associated Press reveal.

For weeks, the Democratic governor had resisted such a mandate. He feared it would backfire and cause fewer people to wear masks despite evidence that they help keep the virus from spreading, a review of thousands of emails shows. Read more

Montana Rodeo Goes On, Bucking Fears On Fort Peck Reservation

Cowboys lined the metal chutes that released bucking horses and their riders into the arena, Miss Rodeo Montana signed autographs for fans, and coronavirus warning signs ended with “Face mask usage is of personal choice.”

Rodeos are a summertime staple across the West, but the pandemic has presented a dilemma for cities and towns dependent on the economic and cultural boost the events give. Read more

Updated 07/16/20, 4:55 p.m.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Health officials in Montana announced two deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, one connected to an outbreak at a nursing home in Billings and the other in Lewis and Clark County.

A man in his 70s died early Thursday at Canyon Creek Memory Care which has lost eight other residents to the respiratory virus, said the Yellowstone County health department.

Lewis and Clark County announced its first death due to complications from COVID-19, a person over the age of 65 who died Tuesday. No other information on the person was released.

Thirty-six Montana residents have died of the respiratory virus, including 16 who were residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities. Thirty-seven people remain hospitalized, including 24 of them in Yellowstone County, health officer John Felton said Thursday. Read more

UM Reports Positive COVID-19 Case On Missoula Campus

The  Curry Health Center says the University of Montana campus has been impacted by a positive COVID-19 case.

Curry Health Center Medical Director Jeff Adams wrote in an email to university employees Thursday afternoon that Missoula has seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, and "this includes cases within our campus community."

The email says people identified as a close contact to a confirmed case will be notified by the county health department.

Montana Ag Producers Say They Need More COVID-19 Relief

As Congress prepares to debate another stimulus package to prop up the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, farmers and ranchers are lobbying for more help.

Inside a farm shop southeast of Great Falls Wednesday industry representatives met with federal agriculture department Under Secretary Bill Northey and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines to voice their concerns. Read more

Gianforte Releases "Montana Comeback Plan"

This week, Montana’s Republican candidate for governor unveiled what he’s billing a comeback plan for the state.

During a press conference July 15 in Missoula, current U.S. Congressman Greg Gianforte said the novel coronavirus has created a “economic pandemic” that must also be cured.

“So how do we do it? We need to get our economy going again. We need to get Montana open for business. We need to get Montanans back to work in good-paying jobs, all while protecting our way of life," Gianforte said. Read more

Updated 07/15/20, 4:45 p.m.

Many Montanans are now required to wear masks inside public spaces and at some gatherings.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Wednesday issued a directive that requires face coverings in counties with four or more cases of COVID-19. It comes the same week the state exceeded 1,000 active cases.

"No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service. It’s that simple."

Masks are required inside businesses and at outdoor gatherings of 50 or more people when social distancing isn’t possible or being observed. Two dozen counties fall under the requirement.

Children five and older are required to wear masks. Businesses and organizations responsible for spaces open to the public are required to provide masks.

Mask mandates have been a contentious topic throughout the state. The Whitefish City Council listened to over an hour of heated testimony yesterday (Tues 7/14) before voting to implement a public mask order.

Gallatin County commissioners had to postpone a meeting after those hoping to provide public comments refused to social distance. Missoula, Big Horn and Custer Counties have already implemented public mask mandates.

Half of states across the country now have some form of a mask mandate. Montana’s neighboring states recommend masks, but don’t require them.

Montana reported a record 145 additional coronavirus cases today, including 72 in Gallatin County. Thirty-seven people are hospitalized, up from 29 known hospitalizations Tuesday.

Find more info on COVID-19 restrictions in Montana.

07/14/20, 6:55 p.m.

Yellowstone County reported two additional deaths Tuesday: a woman at MorningStar Senior Living, and another who lived at Canyon Creek Memory Care. An outbreak there has killed eight people and infected nearly all residents and staff.

Care Home Refused Free Tests. Now, Nearly Everyone There Has Coronavirus

It was meant to be a last line of defense to protect the most vulnerable as the coronavirus spread across the United States: Montana officials offered free testing in May for staff and residents at assisted living and long-term care facilities. But not all of them followed through, according to state data, including a facility in Billings that cares for people with dementia and other memory problems.

The virus has infected almost every resident there and killed eight, accounting for almost a quarter of Montana's 34 confirmed deaths. Thirty-six employees also have tested positive.  Read more

Whitefish City Council Adopts Mask Requirement

The Whitefish city council today passed an ordinance requiring face coverings in places of business. It also requires people wear them on public transportation, in outdoor gatherings of 20 or more, and in outdoor gatherings where social distancing is not possible. Read more

Gallatin County officials had planned to discuss mandating face coverings Tuesday but postponed the meeting after people seeking to give public comment refused to maintain physical distancing. Read more

Montana added another 109 lab-confirmed cases of the COVID-19 illness to its count Tuesday, bringing the total number of active cases in the state to more than 1,000. Wibaux and Sanders County reported their first cases today. Nearly 40 of the new cases announced Tuesday are in the northwest corner of the state.

07/13/20, 5:45 p.m.

Montana confirmed 252 new COVID-19 cases from Saturday through Monday, marking one of its highest three-day totals. Montana’s rate of infections still trails most of the nation. But the number of cases has risen sharply over the last month as economic restrictions eased. According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, Montana had 1,677 confirmed cases and 29 deaths due to the virus as of Saturday.

Montana health officials have reported three additional deaths related to the coronavirus over the weekend, bringing the state’s total number to 32. An assisted living facility in Billings has reported the deaths of two women in their 90s. Seven residents of Canyon Creek Memory Care have died so far after contracting the virus. The third death was a woman in her 70s in Big Horn County.

Cascade County in central Montana has issued a public health order limiting indoor events to 250 people and outdoor events to 500. The Cascade City-County Health Department issued the order Friday that also requires organizers of events with 100 to 500 people submit an event packet for approval before the event can take place. The Great Falls Tribune reports that officials say the restrictions are reasonable and intended to protect the community from the coronavirus

Montana School Leaders Say They Need More Specifics On Reopening

The Governor’s Office and the Office of Public Instruction put out two separate plans providing guidance to school districts earlier this month as they try to hash out what  K-12 education might look like this fall. But school leaders say they need more specifics. Read more

Billings Correctional Facility Adds Six COVID-19 Cases

Six more residents of a corrections facility in Billings have tested positive for COVID-19 amid a steep rise in cases in the county where it’s located. Read more

07/10/20, 5 p.m.

Two more people have died as a result of a coronavirus outbreak at a memory care facility in Billings, bringing the number of deaths associated with the facility to five. RiverStone Health says a man in his 90s and a man in his 80s, both patients at the Canyon Creek Memory Care facility, died Thursday. Both men were residents of the facility, which has reported 66 cases of the virus, including 45 among residents.

The new deaths were announced Friday, the same day Montana reported a daily record of 127 newly confirmed cases of the virus. That brings the state’s total number of known people now sick with COVID-19 to more than 700.

Yellowstone County remains the state’s largest host spot with over 250 known active cases. Gallatin county fallows that with more than 130. There are 50 active cases reported in Missoula, where health officials this week required face covering for indoor public places.

07/09/20, 5:45 p.m.

The Missoula City-County Board of Health today adopted a rule to require face coverings in businesses, government buildings and other indoor spaces open to the public. The mandate calls for, "cloth, paper, or disposable face covering that covers the nose and the mouth and which does not have an exhalation valve. The term includes medical-grade masks, but does not include face shields."

The rule applies to people ages 12 and up, with exemptions for workers maintaining a 6 foot distance and not interacting with the public; when eating or drinking; and if doing an activity that makes wearing a face covering physically impractical or unsafe. Read more.

Yellowstone County health officials say an outbreak of COVID-19 at a memory care facility in Billings has led to three deaths. RiverStone Health says a woman in her 70s, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 90s have died this week, raising the state's COVID-19 death toll to 26.

After the outbreak at the facility was announced earlier this week, Gov. Steve Bullock stated he’d be issuing an emergency rule requiring long term care and assisted living centers in Montana to participate in surveillance testing as a condition of allowing visitors. That rule is not yet in place. In a statement today, spokesperson Marissa Perry said the state health department is in the process of drafting the rule and it needs to go through a legal review process.

Montana today reported a daily record 96 new cases of the respiratory virus, bringing the state's total number of known cases to 1,466. 645 people are currently sick with the virus.

Applications for unemployment benefits fell to 2,613 in the week ending July 4, a decrease of 3% from the previous week.

Billings Pre-Release Center Residents Say Conditions Poor Following Two COVID-19 Detections

Residents of a corrections facility in Billings remain quarantined amid two recently-discovered COVID-19 cases. Multiple residents say they're concerned the virus could spread further within the building following what they call insufficient care for their safety. Read more.

Chippewa Cree Order Temporary Lockdown As COVID-19 Case Count Rises

A rise in Covid-19 cases on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation has led to drastic emergency measures.

The Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Incident Command has called for a complete reservation shutdown, including a temporary, seven-day lockdown of borders from July 8 through 15. Read more.

Feds Release Data On Paycheck Protection Loan Recipients

Tens of thousands of businesses and nonprofit organizations across Montana have benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a massive federal effort that has routed billions of dollars into subsidized bank loans intended to help small businesses keep workers on payroll during the economic disruption prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. Read more.

Billings Pre-Release Center Residents Say Conditions Poor Following Two COVID-19 Detections

Residents of a corrections facility in Billings remain quarantined amid two recently-discovered COVID-19 cases. Multiple residents say they're concerned the virus could spread further within the building following what they call insufficient care for their safety. Read more.

Community COVID-19 Testing Events To Be Held In Billings, Livingston, Gardiner

Several Montana communities are offering free COVID-19 testing in coming days to check for undetected infections. Read more.

Trump Fundraiser With Known COVID-19 Case Forces Montana Candidates Into Quarantine

News broke on Fourth of July that a handful of Montana’s high-profile elected officials and political candidates were potentially exposed to COVID-19 during two of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign events. This week, we learned where those events took place and who attended. Read more.

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.