Montana Coronavirus And COVID-19 News

Jul 1, 2020

07/01/30/20, 7:55 a.m.

Montana officials reported another 50 cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, pushing the state's total over 1,000. Gov. Steve Bullock says the virus hasn't gone away, and it is clear people have let their guard down.

The governor urged residents to continue wearing masks and taking other precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The state reported 498 cases of COVID-19 in June compared to 66 in May.

The number of infections in the state is thought to be far higher than 1,016 because many people have not been tested and people can be infected without feeling ill.

State, city and county officials are increasing calls for residents to wear masks as the number of COVID-19 cases in Montana grows.

In a tweet Wednesday, Gov. Steve Bullock encouraged people to wear masks when in crowds and when indoors. Bullock has not gone so far as to order wearing masks in public places.

Missoula’s mayor and county commissioners want an order, and have asked the county health officer to issue an order requiring masks in licensed businesses. Mayor John Engen and three commissioners made the request of Ellen Leahy in a letter dated June 30th.

The city officials said requiring face coverings in all businesses licensed by the local health department or the city of Missoula seems reasonable and timely given the surge of COVID-19 cases.

The state reported 50 new cases on Wednesdays, bringing the total number of Montanans sickened by the virus to over 1,000. Nearly 60% of the active cases are in Missoula, Gallatin, Yellowstone and Big Horn counties.

Bozeman Health Officer Matt Kelley said mandatory masks will be a community decision, and it is not something health officials are going do overnight.

“The Board of Health has voiced an interest in hearing from the public, and really sharing the best science that we have out there,” he said. “It’ll be a Board of Health decision, whatever happens, and I wouldn’t presume to make a decision before then.”

The health department is focusing on educating the public about the advantages of wearing masks, Kelley said, adding people who want to wear them will.

06/30/20, 10:26 p.m.

Montana reported another 49 cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, including 20 in Missoula County. The new cases confirmed from among more than 2,000 tests run on Monday bring the state's total cases to 967.

Missoula County has stopped testing asymptomatic people and is only testing people with symptoms and their close contacts.

Gallatin County health officials issued warnings to four downtown bars for overcrowding.

County and state health officials issued a statement Tuesday urging people to wear face coverings, in part to set an example for out-of-state visitors. Officials said Montana’s tourism sector is set to continue suffering despite the state’s reopening for out-of-state visitors on June 1.

Montana Receives Second Highest Number Of COVID-19 Cases In Consecutive Days

The State of Montana reported its second highest single day uptick in COVID-19 cases on Jun. 30. This comes after a new record count was set earlier this week. Read more

Montana Veterans Offered Free COVID-19 Testing

The Montana Veterans Health Care System is offering free COVID-19 testing to veterans. In a press release, the agency said Montana Veterans enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System can get testing at thirteen locations across the state over the next two weeks.

Judy Hayman, executive director of the Montana VA health system, says veterans who are not experiencing symptoms can do drive up testing at VA facilities. Read more

Native Americans Account For 13 Percent Of Montana COVID-19 Cases

Last weekend, Montana saw its biggest spike yet in COVID-19 cases. YPR reports how the disease is impacting Native Americans across the state.

As of Jun. 29, more than 900 people in Montana have had confirmed cases of COVID-19. Native Americans account for 13 percent of the cases even though they make up less than seven percent of the state’s population. Read more

Telehealth Appointments On The Rise, Offer Options For Patients And Doctors

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began advising against face to face interactions, Montana healthcare providers sought to expand non emergency telehealth appointments. It's a trend that could keep going. Read more

MSU Researcher Says Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Were Tip Of Iceberg

Millions of people in the U.S. were infected by the novel coronavirus in March even though they were not diagnosed with COVID-19. That’s according to a new publication co authored by a researcher at Montana State University. Read more

06/29/20, 6:05 p.m.

Montana confirmed another 90 COVID-19 cases, according to test results reported from Saturday through Monday. The weekend bumped the state’s total number of known cases over 900.

Twenty-three new cases were reported on Saturday, 11 on Sunday and a one-day record of 56 Monday. Nearly 300 people in the state are known to be currently infected, and 13 are hospitalized. Gallatin and Yellowstone counties both have 55 people who are known infected.

Gallatin County health officials said cases seem to be tied to crowded places like bars, restaurants and parties. They urge residents to take the virus seriously.

Coronavirus Leaves Blackfeet Issuing Stay-At-Home Order

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation is now under a mandatory 14-day stay-at-home order after health officials reported the reservation’s first COVID-19 cases. Blackfeet and Glacier County officials identified nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents over the weekend. Read more

COVID-19 Spike Tightens Hospital Visitor Guidelines

On Monday, Montana reported a total of 919 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 56 new cases since Sunday. That’s the biggest one-day spike since the pandemic started in March.

This spike has prompted some hospitals to tighten visitor guidelines. Read more

Working From Home In Montana Possibly More Attractive Than Ever

For years, economic developers have touted the possibilities for people to live in Montana and work for companies that aren’t here. The COVID-19 shutdown has, in some ways, offered proof of that concept. Read more

Border Patrol Extends Restrictions At Northern Ports Of Entry

Six ports of entry between Montana and Canada will continue to operate at reduced hours through July 21. Travel between the two countries is still restricted to essential only amid the new coronavirus pandemic. Read more

Big Horn County Health Department Requires Residents To Wear Facial Coverings

The Big Horn County Health Department announced June 26 residents are required to wear face coverings or masks outside their homes.

Health officials say the order is in response to a sudden rise of COVID-19 cases in the county. At least 34 people in Big Horn are sick with the disease. Read more

06/25/20, 7:31 p.m.

Montana reported 37 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest daily number of positive cases since the pandemic began. It pushed the state's total number of cases to over 800. The previous peak was 35 cases on March 26.

Meanwhile, applications for unemployment assistance in Montana declined during the week ending on June 20.

The U.S. Employment and Training Administration said the number of new applications fell to 2,845. That's a decrease of nearly 10 percent from the number of applications submitted the previous week.

Private School CARES Funding Now Up To School Districts

The U.S. Department of Education is changing its guidance on how federal coronavirus relief funding for public school districts will be shared with private schools. Read more

Bullock Directive To Allow Visitors At Assisted Living, Nursing Home

Gov. Steve Bullock issued a directive Thursday lifting visitor restrictions at assisted living facilities and nursing homes — under strict guidelines. Read more

Some Montana University Faculty Want Option Of Requiring Face Coverings

Some university faculty in Montana want the option of requiring students to wear face coverings when the fall semester starts.

The Governor’s MUS Healthy Fall 2020 Task Force released guidelines earlier this month for Montana’s universities as they prepare for on-campus academic and student life during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of which says universities cannot require students to wear cloth face coverings while on campus.

But some faculty say that’s a problem as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to go up. Read more

Ag Sees Some Opportunity in Loss and Chaos With Montana Beef Market

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Montana’s cattle ranchers hard. Midwest meat plants shuttered because of disease outbreaks, upending the traditional supply chain and leaving ranchers with animals they might not be able to sell. The burgeoning local food systems may play more of a role going forward. Read more

06/24/20, 8:10 p.m.

Montana reported 23 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Wednesday. Three counties were responsible for about half of those: five cases were reported in Missoula County, four in Yellowstone County and three in Gallatin County.

The rest were reported in Big Horn, Rosebud, Treasure, Cascade, Custer, Dawson, Flathead and Richland counties.

Three southern counties have the most active cases. Big Horn has 30, Gallatin has 29 and Yellowstone County reports 22.

Statewide, there are 174 active cases with 17 active hospitalizations. Health officials reported 571 people have recovered and 21 have died.

In the past week, Montana has reported 136 new cases of COVID-19. That number includes a Billings’ nursing home resident and a Missoula firefighter. Since June 1, Montana has reported 248 cases, or almost one-third of its 766 cases.

Increased testing and reopening the economy were expected to lead to higher numbers, according to state officials.

COVID-19 Motivates Policy Overhaul For County Jails In Montana

Criminal justice system reformers for years have sought to reduce county jail and state prison populations in Montana. The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the process, mostly at county detention facilities across the state.

Jordan Gross is giving a lot of thought to a graduate seminar on criminal justice reform she’ll teach this fall. Gross is a law professor at the University of Montana. It’s on her mind because the COVID-19 pandemic has, in certain ways, had significant impacts already. Read more

Montana Manufacturers’ New Products, Markets Could Have Lasting Impact Post-Pandemic

Businesses across the state found themselves making new products in response to pandemic shortages. Montana companies pivoted from manufacturing items like fishing waders and craft spirits to gowns and disinfectant and kept people employed in the process. Read more

Flathead Reservation's Shelter-In-Place Lifting Mid-July

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are lifting the Flathead Indian Reservation’s shelter-in-place order mid-July. The order was first issued in late March, when novel coronavirus cases were detected in the state.

Bullock Addresses Increased COVID-19 Cases And Testing

On Wednesday, Gov. Steve Bullock said there is no doubt Montana has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases since moving into Phase 2 of its economic reopening plan in early June. Read more

06/23/20, 6:07 p.m.

State officials are projecting a revenue reduction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but say those losses will likely be recouped in the next two fiscal years.

The Legislative Fiscal Division predicts general fund revenue will drop nearly 13 percent in the fiscal year beginning on July 1st. Montana’s revenues are then projected to rise by 15 percent over the next year.

State budget director Tom Livers said Tuesday the state can overcome its economic challenges, and that Montana is in a good position compared to some other states.

Gov. Steve Bullock is requiring state employees to wear masks at work when interacting with the public.

An Tuesday email from Montana’s General Services Division wrote that state agencies will provide face masks for employees.

Cloth masks are available for employees in public-facing offices. Disposable KN95 masks are available for members of the public, who are encouraged but not required to wear a mask when entering a public-facing state office.

A General Services press release state the division would be distributing face masks for dissemination to state offices.

Montana reported nine new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. Three of those new cases were in Big Horn County and Cascade County. Dawson, Lewis and Clark, and Yellowstone counties each had one new case.

Big Horn County is reporting the most active cases in the state with 28. Gallatin and Yellowstone counties are also reporting higher numbers, with each having more than 20 active cases.

There are 156 active cases, according the Montana health department Fifteen people are currently hospitalized and 566 have recovered.

06/22/20, 6:32 p.m.

Montana health officials have reported 69 new cases of COVID-19 over the last three days and a new death related to the illness.

A man in his 60s died in a Yellowstone County hospital on Saturday. It is the 21st death recorded in the state and the fourth in Yellowstone County attributed to COVID-19.

More than 2,800 test results were reported between Friday and Sunday. They resulted in 32 cases Saturday, 20 on Sunday and 17 on Monday.

The 32 cases reported on Saturday mark the second highest single-day tally, trailing only the 35 cases reported on March 26. Montana’s total known active case total stands at 163.

Billings Inmate With COVID-19 Not Immediately Isolated

A State of Montana spokesperson says she was wrong in telling the Billings Gazette last week that a female inmate who tested positive for the novel coronavirus had been isolated for the entire length of her illness.

Carolynn Bright with the Montana Department of Corrections says the situation had been miscommunicated to her last week. Read more

06/19/20 4:45 p.m.

Montana’s unemployment rate dropped to 9% last month from 11.9% in April amid the coronavirus-related economic downturn.

Total employment, including both payroll jobs and the self-employed, added 16,780 jobs over the month. That's the most jobs added in any single month since data collection began in 1976.

Despite job gains, Montana’s May employment estimate remains roughly 44,000 jobs below its pre-pandemic peak.

Montana’s 9% unemployment rate trails nearby Idaho and Wyoming, each reporting just shy of 9%. North and South Dakota are slightly higher.

The national unemployment rate for the period was 13.3%.

Montana reported 11 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday. Three of those new cases were in Yellowstone County. Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, and Rosebud counties each accounted for 2 new cases. Carbon County and Custer County reported one case each.

There are 100 active cases, according the Montana health department. Nine people are currently hospitalized and 546 have recovered.

06/18/20 7 p.m.

Montana has reported more new confirmed cases of coronavirus in a single day since late March. The number of infections in the state continues to trend upward.

Thursday's 25 new confirmed cases came from every region of the state. They included cases in Richland County in the northeast, Big Horn County in the southeast, Gallatin County in the southwest, and Flathead County in the northwest.

No new deaths were reported. In total, 20 people have died from COVID-19.

On the economic front, applications for temporary unemployment continued to decline from record high levels earlier this spring.

New Loan Deferment Program Available To Montana Businesses Hurt By COVID-19

The Montana Loan Deferment Program will use federal CARES Act relief funds to cover a business’s interest payments for six to 12 months for up to six percent or $150,000. Read more

Custer County Recommends Reverting To Phase 1 In Face Of COVID-19 Cluster

Custer County reported a new cluster of six related COVID-19 cases June 17. As a result, county health officials today issued a two-week recommendation for residents to operate as if they’re back under Phase 1 of Montana’s economic reopening plan. Read more
 

06/17/20 5:30 p.m.

 Blackfeet Nation Continues COVID-19 Closures As Neighbors Begin To Reopen

As the busy summer season gets underway in various tourism hotspots across the state, Glacier National Park’s eastern neighbor is taking a more cautious approach. Concerns about COVID-19 have left the Blackfeet Nation slow to reopen its reservation to tourists. Read more

Montana health officials are reporting 18 new cases of COVID-19 identified through tests analyzed Tuesday. Montana has now seen a total of 20 deaths because of the virus. The 18 new cases announced Wednesday mark the highest daily total since April 8.

On a press call today, Gov. Steve Bullock reiterated the need to maintain distance from others, frequent hand washing and encouraged wearing a face covering.

"Everybody should recognize that this virus is still in our midst and we have to take it seriously."

There were a total of 73 positive tests from the past 7 days compared with 39 in the previous week. Officials attributed the increase to reopening the state’s economy and increased testing.

06/16/20, 5:35 pm.

Crow tribal leadership is extending the reservation’s “Stay Home” order until July 15 as the reservation and nearby Big Horn County saw a steady increase in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks.

The order issued Monday requires all non-essential businesses to remain closed for another month. The order also encourages tribal members and residents to wear masks, wash hands frequently, and limit social gatherings.

The Executive Order from Chairman A.J. Not Afraid said the decision to extend the “Stay Home” order from June 15 to July 15 was made after consulting with medical and public health experts, and should be observed despite the State of Montana easing restrictions.

Big Horn County announced its third death, a woman in her 30s who had been diagnosed and hospitalized. As of Monday evening, Big Horn County was reporting 11 active cases of the COVID-19 illness, along with 34 recoveries and three total deaths.

The nearby Northern Cheyenne tribe is under similar restrictions until June 19.

The Montana health Department reported five new COVID-19 cases Tuesday. Two of the new cases were in Custer County, two in Missoula County, and one in Yellowstone County. The state is reporting 60 active cases, with eight hospitalizations.

The health department reports a total of 614 confirmed cases, out of 63,577 tests processed. 535 people are known to have recovered. 20 people in Montana have died due to COVID-19.

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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.