Tonight on Campaign Beat: The health and political fallout of Gov. Steve Bullock's decision to reopen the state is widely debated. One Democratic candidate for governor is critical of the decision to allow schools to reopen. And Sen. Steve Daines has increasing visibility, both in new campaign ads and public appearances.

Listen now on Campaign Beat, with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.

Montana will start lifting its stay-at-home order Sunday. This comes nearly a month after the restrictions were put in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

More than 440 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 illness have been reported in Montana, with 325 people now recovered from the virus. 14 people have died from the illness and 12 are currently hospitalized.

Montana will lift its stay-at-home order starting April 26. Gov. Steve Bullock says the state has flattened the curve of COVID-19 spread in the state and it's time to start reopening. But he also said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon that won't happen all at once.

A sign near Gardiner, Montana, sits near the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, May 16, 2019.
Rachel Cramer / Yellowstone Public Radio

Yellowstone National Park is gathering input from gateway communities, governors and federal agencies to develop a gradual reopening plan. 

The Partnership Health Center based out of Missoula.
Partnership Health Center website / Partnership Health Center

  Community health centers across Montana provide care to people who wouldn’t have access otherwise. While they’ve had to pivot with COVID-19, their expansion of tele-health and new ways of connecting with patients could stick around well after the current pandemic subsides.

A Zoom video conference between five people.
Zoom Video Communications / Zoom Video Communications

The novel coronavirus has canceled many aspects of regular order, but city and state governments are still making decisions that might outlast the current pandemic.

YPR News’ Kayla Desroches has been reporting on how elected officials are balancing social distancing guidelines with the public’s right to open government. She shared her reporting with Nicky Ouellet.

Coal stacks at Colstrip Power plant
Kayla Deroches / Yellowstone Public Radio

The body that regulates electric utilities in Montana on Apr. 21 decided it does not need more information to consider a proposal from the state’s largest utility to buy more into the Colstrip coal fired power plant.

The PSC has said the application lacked information about resource alternatives like clean energy, the potential retirement of unit 4 and how the acquisition would affect customer rates, among other things.

This week, Gov. Steve Bullock is expected to outline how Montana’s schools could reopen.

Some schools are deciding to keep classes online for the remainder of the school year regardless of Bullock’s forthcoming plan, while others are waiting for the governor’s updated school closure order.

The Montana coronavirus task force is expected to move forward with a gradual, phased reopening of the state after stay-at-home and other closure orders expire Friday at midnight.

On the same day last week that Gov. Steve Bullock announced the forthcoming plan, Republican legislative leaders launched a Facebook group calling for a strategy to transition out of the COVID-19 crisis.

Lack of internet access and financial pressures are raising concerns about a potential increased rate of Native American college dropouts. As classes move online during the coronavirus pandemic, tribal colleges report more students are withdrawing or aren’t participating.