COVID-19

As Montana Prepares To Reopen, State Lacks Local COVID-19 Testing Data

Apr 24, 2020

As Gov. Steve Bullock moves to roll back emergency measures enacted to slow the COVID-19 pandemic, he has said he’ll take a data-driven approach to reopening Montana’s economy while minimizing the risk of a second-surge outbreak.

State officials are keeping a close eye on the number of laboratory-confirmed cases. However, they aren’t tracking the number of Montanans who’ve been tested in each county, a metric national experts say is important to fully understand how the outbreak is playing out in different parts of the state.

The marque at the Babcock Theater in Billings reads "Wash Your Hands, We Will Be Back."
Nicky Ouellet / Yellowstone Public Radio


County health officers in Montana say residents must continue social distancing measures, even as the state mandated stay-at-home order lifts Sunday, in order to avoid future outbreaks of the COVID-19 illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The global pandemic turned the hopes and expectations of one young Missoula family upside down. They say the experience has fundamentally changed them, and not necessarily for the worse.

Leo Marlay Smith has a heck of a birth story. He arrived much sooner than expected when delivered late last month via an emergency c-section.

Participants in one of the Women in Ranching Circles gather at the J Bar L Ranch near Twin Bridges, Montana in August 2019.
Courtesy of the Women in Ranching Program

Ranching can be an isolating profession in a good year. But the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the few staples of social contact women ranchers rely on. A program led by a woman in Garfield County, Montana is forging new ways of connecting that will likely outlast the pandemic.

Every summer, conservation crews cut a dent into the billion-dollar backlog of labor on public land in Montana. But the novel coronavirus means uncertainty and less work for the battalion of young adults working on trails and forests across the state.

The Ellen Theater in Bozeman, Montana,  the evening of March 30, 2020.
Rachel Cramer/Yellowstone Public Radio

Montana financial leaders are encouraging business owners to get their ducks in a row as more funding for the federal Paycheck Protection Program was approved by Congress Thursday.

Tracie Kenyon, President and CEO of Montana's Credit Unions, says small businesses, as well as non-profit organizations and co-ops, will likely get a second chance to receive forgivable loans to pay employees.

An online exhibit from the Western Heritage Center in Billings will show just how locals are feeling about the coronavirus pandemic. It’s called “Art in Isolation: Response to COVID-19.”

Lauren Hunley with the Western Heritage Center says the exhibit has nearly 170 unique and original pieces of art by Montanans expressing such emotions as anger, gratitude, humor and spirituality during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Montana Hospital Association says it fully supports the Bullock administration’s phased-in approach to rebooting the state’s economy. The hospitals represented by the association are now outlining their plans to resume elective surgical procedures.

COVID-19 test kit.
CDC

Native American tribes are taking varied approaches to Gov. Steve Bullock’s announcement Wednesday that Montana will lift the statewide stay at home order.

Some plan to align local restrictions with the state, while others will forge their own path.

Public K-12 schools in Montana will have the option of reopening their doors to students May 7. Gov. Steve Bullock made that announcement Wednesday, about five weeks after ordering their closure due to coronavirus concerns.

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