Montana Coronavirus And COVID-19 News
Montana lawmakers are postponing Friday’s floor sessions and not meeting in person in response to an outside case of COVID-19.
Lawmakers are staying home from the Capitol to allow time for contact tracing after Sen. Jason Ellsworth, chair of the Legislature’s COVID-19 response panel, was notified Thursday evening that a lobbyist tested positive for COVID-19.
In a prepared statement, Ellsworth said, “We are taking a little time to evaluate and gather more information to ensure the safety of our members, our staff, and the community."
The release says it isn’t known which lawmakers will be contact traced or if there will be any positive cases among the group.
Members of the public can check the Legislature’s website to see if specific committees are still meeting remotely Friday. The Legislature is working to eliminate the typical Zoom registration deadline for public comment for committees that choose to meet, the release says.
Six lawmakers are publicly known to have tested positive for COVID-19 since the session began in January. Gov. Greg Gianforte returned to the Capitol this week after a positive test in early April.
Gianforte Back In The Office After COVID-19
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has returned to work at the Capitol after isolating since earlier this month following a positive test for COVID-19.
According to governor’s office spokesperson Brooke Stroyke, Gianforte had been isolating at home in Bozeman under the guidance of his doctor since he first began experiencing symptoms on April 4. Gianforte tested positive the next day along with first lady Susan Gianforte.
In a video posted on Gianforte’s Twitter account Tuesday, he said he experienced minor symptoms.
"This is a serious illness. It left me fatigued, but I am feeling better and I’m ready to get back in the office tomorrow."
In the video, Gianforte encouraged Montanans to stay vigilant and to get a vaccine.
On Monday, a member of Gianforte’s staff tested positive for COVID-19. Stroyke said the person was not a close contact of the governor, of a legislator or of staff. She added that all staff present in the Governor’s office have tested negative for the virus every day this week.
State and local health officials in Montana are following a recommended pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. The change is causing some logistical issues.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made the recommendation Tuesday after six women experienced a rare form of blood clot one to two weeks after receiving their Johnson & Johnson vaccine. According to the CDC, there have been 6.85 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered in the U.S. Read more
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte issued Tuesday an executive order banning the development or use of vaccine passports in Montana.
The move by Gianforte comes as vaccine passports — documents used to verify COVID-19 immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine — have been portrayed by Republicans across the country as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices. Read more
Gov's Office Says Gianforte Is Feeling Better After COVID-19 Diagnosis; Staffer Tests Positive
After testing positive for COVID-19 last week, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte is recovering and his wife, Susan, is asymptomatic.
According to a spokesperson for the governor’s office, Gianforte "continues to feel better."
Gianforte, who’s 59, tested positive a week ago after showing mild symptoms of the virus. First lady Susan Gianforte tested positive the following day. The governor had been in close contact with one staff member and some family and friends.
According to Gianforte’s spokesperson Brooke Stroyke, a staffer in the office who was not identified as a close contact of the governor tested positive for COVID-19 Monday. The staffer was last in the office Friday and had received a negative COVID-19 test result that morning.
On Monday, all other staff members in the governor’s office were tested and received a negative result.
Cascade County health officials are winding down their mass COVID-19 vaccination events. The county is shifting to a more targeted vaccination strategy with hopes of getting more doses in the arms of young people in order to reach herd immunity. Read more
The Missoula City County Health Department has launched a COVID-19 vaccine campaign. The effort comes as health officials in multiple counties say demand for vaccines is "softening."
Missoula County health officials announced the campaign, titled “Come Together: Vaccine for every Montanan,” Friday. The campaign will focus on distributing educational materials about the importance of getting vaccinated to participating partners and businesses. The campaign will also include community canvasing efforts to sign up residents for vaccine appointments.
The vaccination campaign comes as Missoula and others like Yellowstone and Lincoln counties are starting to see COVID vaccine appointments go unfilled. As of Friday afternoon, hundreds of appointments remained open or unfilled, according to Missoula County’s sign-up page.
"What we’re seeing now may not be what is commonly called 'vaccine hesitancy,' it may just be vaccine convenience," Missoula Office of Emergency Management Director Adriene Beck says.
Beck says many people may not go out of their way to get a vaccine or are maybe working during regular business hours. The county has begun to offer evening and weekend vaccine appointments to reach those people.
Montana universities are offering students and staff the one-dose Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the spring semester. The clinics aim to inoculate those who may not be on campus long enough for a two-dose vaccine. Read more
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and the first lady have tested positive For COVID-19, according to a statement from the governor’s office. A spokersperson for the governor's office said Gianforte tested positive after experiencing mild symptoms on Sunday. He is now isolating for 10 days and his office staff are being tested. Read more
Over 1,700 Vaccine Appointments Available In Yellowstone County
More than 1,700 COVID vaccine appointments in Yellowstone County remain open this week. County health officials say the demand for COVID-19 vaccines is falling. Read more
Other counties are also reporting available vaccine appointments. Find out how to get vaccinated.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has tested positive for COVID-19.
The governor’s office said in a statement Monday evening that Gianforte tested positive after experiencing mild symptoms on Sunday.
He is now isolating for 10 days and his office staff are being tested.
The governor’s office says Gianforte has held no public events since last Thursday.
Spokesperson Brooke Stroyke said Gianforte has been in close contact with one staff member, a member of his protective detail and family and friends whom he had dinner with. Stroyke said it’s unknown where the governor contracted the virus.
Coronavirus case numbers have plateaued at around 1,000 active in the state, although some county health officials are warning variants could lead to resurgence. Just over 21% of the state’s more than a million people are fully vaccinated.
Gianforte, who is 59 years old, received his first Pfizer vaccine dose last week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people are not fully protected until two weeks after their second shot.
Meanwhile, the Gallatin City-County Board of Health voted Monday to extend a county masking mandate through May 27 as COVID-19 cases in the county are on the rise.
The board also amended its business reopening rules to allow eight people per table at restaurants, coffee shops and bars. The board plans to revisit both rules in early May.
Gallatin County currently has the most active coronavirus cases in the state, and also leads in the number of cases caused by variant strains of the virus.
As of March 29, 17% of the eligible population had been fully vaccinated.
The department urges residents to continue taking precautions to slow the spread of the virus, like avoiding crowds, wearing face coverings in public, staying home if sick and getting a vaccine.
COVID-19 cases in Gallatin County have been rising for the last couple of weeks. County health officials say it’s mostly young people driving that growth.
Gallatin County Health Officer Matt Kelley says the number of cases per capita have reached just over 35 per 100,000 people. Kelley says that’s above Harvard University’s threshold of 25 per 100,000 that indicates community spread. He says that and other stats are concerning.
"The positivity rate has gone over 10 percent again, has gone up pretty significantly."
Kelley explains that it’s mostly people in their 20s driving the growth in cases and says hospitalizations remain in the single digits. But he says data has shown that growth of cases in younger age groups spills over into older populations.
Kelley added that several older residents served by home health services have become infected. Kelley says there’s been reports that staff serving those patients aren’t always wearing masks.
He says with just 28 percent of the county’s eligible population vaccinated, the county is nowhere near herd immunity.
Park County health officer Laurel Desnick added this warning in her daily briefing Friday:
"COVID-19 is still a serious, life-threatening disease that can have long-term complications, and it’s impossible to know how you will react if you do get COVID 19. Even with vaccination in sight for so many, we have to remember that this is still a deadly virus, and parts of the country are beginning to see cases rise for a fourth surge ... Wear your mask indoors in public places. Get tested if you’re sick. Get vaccinated when you can."
Missoula County has vaccinated 22 percent of its eligible population against COVID-19, and county health officials are easing restrictions on events.
In a press release, the Missoula City-County Health Department says while the COVID vaccination rate in the county is well below herd immunity levels, it is high enough to allow events to take place without size restrictions. Health officials say event organizers still need to ensure that social distancing and masking take place at their events.
The county health department says this is just one of the many milestones the county will hit as more residents get their vaccines. Health officials say it’s the only way life will return to normal.
All Montanans age 16 and up will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 1 as the state steps into Phase 2 of its vaccine distribution plan. Read more
The Montana House Tuesday endorsed a state spending plan for $2 billion in federal coronavirus aid. House Bill 632 offers a wide-ranging framework for how the state will spend the bulk of its stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Read more
Montana counties are preparing for April 1st when anyone 16 and up becomes eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Gallatin City County Health Department says residents will be able to sign up for a spot on the COVID-19 waiting list starting Wednesday at noon. A link to the online sign up will be available on the Healthy Gallatin website. Residents without internet access can call 406-548-0123 to fill out a form over the phone.
The health department says the new process allows the county to continue prioritizing people who qualify for Phases 1A, 1B and 1B+ and are still waiting for a vaccine.
Meanwhile, Yellowstone County says more than 1,300 appointments this week for COVID-19 vaccines were still available as of Monday afternoon.
Last week, Riverstone Health said out-of-county 16 and 17 year olds can call 406-651-6596 to schedule an appointment for the Pfizer vaccine in Yellowstone County.
Missoula county made a COVID-19 vaccine available to all county residents age 16 and older starting March 28.
Missoula County residents can make a vaccine appointment by going to the county's vaccine information page or by calling 258-4636 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Most small population counties receive the Moderna vaccine, which, like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is only approved for people 18 and older. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for people 16 and up.
UK Variant Found In Park County
According to an update Monday from Park County health officer Dr. Laurel Desnick:
A COVID variant that originated in the UK has now been identified by the Montana State Lab in Park County. This variant seems to be both more contagious and more deadly and has continued to gain a foothold in Montana, with more than 10 counties confirming cases. Wherever this variant has spread, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have increased.
Some Counties Are Seeing An Increase In COVID-19 Cases
Following Pres. Joe Biden’s request Monday for states to reinstate mask mandates, a spokesperson for Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said the criteria to remove that mask requirement was met in February — though some county health officials said it was too soon.
Gianforte’s criteria for lifting the mask mandate was for the Legislature to pass a bill protecting businesses from COVID-19 liability and the state starting to vaccinate the most vulnerable residents.
Gianforte’s spokesperson Brooke Stroyke said Montana’s trend is encouraging.
While case counts across Montana are significantly lower than a peak in November that greatly pressured the state’s health care system, some counties are again seeing an uptick.
Gallatin County reports its weekly average case count is rising, along with the percent of tests that return positive, to rates higher than last summer. Park County similarly cautions a variant strain of the virus from the United Kingdom presents new concerns, but it’s unclear if the variant is connected to more than 25 new cases identified there last week.
County health officials say masks, distancing and avoiding crowds are still important to prevent the spread of the virus.
Montana is seeing a growing number of cases of variant strains of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Montana COVID-19 Task Force Lead Matt Quinn said during a press conference Thursday there are now 49 cases made up of the five types of variant in Montana.
"So, fairly decent spread across Montana as we’re seeing that. Gallatin County certainly got it first," Quinn said.
The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says variants of the virus spread more easily and some variants cause milder or more severe disease.
Health officials continue to encourage mask wearing and getting a vaccine when one becomes available.
Montana is adding an average of 169 new cases per day this week, according to data compiled by NPR. That's a slight uptick compared to a month ago. About 16 percent of Montanans are fully vaccinated.
Ten more cases linked to variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been identified in Montana since last week, including two cases in Missoula County. Health officials there say they are more concerned about a renewed rise in cases. Read more
Missoula County Will Make COVID-19 Vaccine Available To All County Residents 16 And Older Starting March 28
County residents can make a vaccine appointment by going to the county's vaccine information page or by calling 258-4636 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In a press release Wednesday, Missoula County Health Officer Ellen Leahy said, "With Missoula County cases again on the rise, we have entered the race between vaccine rates and case rates that experts warned us about."
Missoula County this week reported the number of tests that came back positive for COVID-19 jumped 2% in the past week and that hospitalizations were trending younger.
Last week Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced the state would open vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and up starting April 1. Yellowstone County moved into this phase Tuesday after consulting with the state, and other counties are headed in that direction.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services’ allotment of first dose vaccine is set to increase by around 7,200 doses next week for a total of roughly 34,000.
While Gov. Greg Gianforte recently announced that all Montanans will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines on Apr. 1, tribal nations in the state have made the vaccine available to everyone and are currently reporting some of the highest vaccination rates in Montana. Read more
Yellowstone County is opening COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults age 16 and older this week. It’s one of the first large counties in Montana to take this step.
Riverstone Health, the county’s health department, announced Tuesday morning that about 1,000 appointments to receive the free vaccine were unclaimed by residents in priority groups, leading the county to expand eligibility.
The Federal Trade Commission reports fraud is booming in the pandemic. Advocates for seniors say older Montanans are especially at risk. Read more
According to a news release from GOP leadership, the lawmaker did not authorize his or her name to be released, as has happened with other lawmakers who have contracted the virus. The GOP press release said the unnamed lawmaker is in quarantine away from the Capitol. Read more
Dr. Gregory Normandin, associate chief of staff for Montana Veterans Affairs, says responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has been an experience above and beyond his 15 years with the VA.
Normandin's dad, a World War II vet, played in shaping his desire to serve others and what gives him hope as the pandemic moves into year two. Read more
Montana’s health department Wednesday announced that 19 cases of variant strains of coronavirus have been identified in the state.
The department says it was notified by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 11 cases that match two California variant strains, and a New York variant strain. The 11 cases are from Beaverhead, Cascade, Glacier, Hill, Jefferson, Madison, Phillips, Roosevelt, Silver Bow, and Valley counties.
Another eight cases of a variant from the United Kingdom have been confirmed in Gallatin County.
Some of the variant strains spread more easily and lead to more severe illness.
Adam Meier, nominee to lead the state health department, said it’s important to limit the spread of COVID-19 and encouraged Montanans to get vaccinated and continue following CDC guidance about staying home when you’re sick, wearing a mask and social distancing.
Gov. Greg Gianforte Tuesday announced all Montanans age 16 and up will be eligible to get the vaccine starting April 1.
The University of Montana is planning COVID-19 vaccine clinics specifically for university employees. The announcement comes one day after Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced that vaccines will be available to all Montanans age 16 and older beginning April first. UM officials hope to complete employee vaccinations prior to April 30.
In an email distributed to the campus community Wednesday, UM President Seth Bodnar said the campus vaccine coordination team is planning vaccine clinics specifically for University employees to also start April first. Those clinics will take place on the mountain campus, in Missoula.
Bodnar says the goal is to quickly administer the vaccine to all employees who want one.
Student-specific clinics are also planned, but details were not released Wednesday.
Additional clinics are anticipated this summer and as students return in the fall.
Montana's governor says all state residents 16 years old and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine at the beginning of April."
On Thursday, April 1, we will make these safe, effective vaccines available to every Montanan who wants one," Gianforte said in an announcement Tuesday.
Vaccines are currently available to Montana front line health care workers, residents 60 or older and those with certain medical conditions. Educators are eligible through a federal partnership with several pharmacies in the state. Over 142,000 Montana residents, accounting for 13% of the state’s population, have received the vaccine doses necessary to become fully immunized to the virus. Read more
Report: COVID-19 Was The Third Leading Cause Of Death In Montana In 2020
A new report from the Montana state health department lists COVID-19 as the third leading cause of death in Montana last year after heart disease and cancer. State health officials say the COVID-19 pandemic was the main reason for a 14% increase in the state’s overall death rate compared with the previous 5-year average. 2020 was the first year since 1908 that the number of deaths in Montana exceeded the number of births in the state.
A year ago this week on the second Saturday of March in 2020, then-governor Steve Bullock held a press conference over a scratchy phone line to announce that four people in Montana had tested positive for COVID-19. A lot changed soon after. Days later, schools closed their doors. By the end of the month, Bullock issued a stay-at-home order. National Guard soldier and airmen began screening out-of-state travelers at airports and railroad stations. Unemployment surged. Our lives changed in a big way.
MTPR's Corin Cates-Carney and YPR's Nicky Ouellet look back at where we've been and forward to where we're going. Listen
Montana’s Lewis and Clark County will lift all COVID-19 related restrictions, except its mask mandate, on Friday. The health board’s decision comes as more communities consider peeling back or amending some health orders as COVID-19 cases have fallen.
While not explicitly stated in Montana’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, the state health department says pregnancy is a major medical condition that may qualify someone for a shot under the current phase.
The Montana House Thursday offered its support to a bill that would create a commission to study whether to permanently revoke regulations suspended during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Gallatin City-County Board of Health has relaxed a COVID-19 related health rule limiting event sizes as the spread of the virus has slowed down.
During a special meeting Friday, the Gallatin City-County Board of Health voted to expand group gatherings from the current limit of 25 people to a maximum of 150 for indoor events and up to 250 for outdoor events if certain physical distancing measures can be maintained.
Montana K through 12 public schools will receive an estimated $382 million in federal funds from the most recent COVID-19 relief package, according to an estimate from the Montana Governor's Office of Budget and Program Planning. Additionally, the Montana Office of Public Instruction says non-public schools in Montana will receive $12.8 million from that same relief bill.
The Montana Folk Festival in Butte has been postponed for the second year in a row due to COVID-19. Festival Director George Everett said that although it is hard to predict the future, summer music festivals in July don’t seem to be in the cards for 2021.
Find information about when, where and how to get your COVID-19 vaccine in Montana.
While not explicitly stated in Montana’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, the state health department says pregnancy is a major medical condition that may qualify someone for a shot under the current phase.
Montana’s congressional delegation split directly along party lines over passage of the $1.9-trillion COVID relief bill.
Matt Rosendale, Montana’s Republican Representative, says Americans get only one thing out of the bill.
"A hosing is what they’re gonna get." Read more
Blackfeet tribal leaders announced Wednesday that the Blackfeet Indian Reservation will move into phase three of its reopening plan on March 15. Read more