Gov. Steve Bullock has created a state task force to prepare for the possible spread of the novel coronavirus in Montana. Montana's efforts now include testing for the coronavirus at the state health department.
Currently, no cases of the COVID-19 illness are reported in Montana.
But Greg Holzeman, state medical officer with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services says all Montanans need to move forward with the understanding that the coronavirus may soon be here.
Holzeman says health officials worked over the weekend to get a lab up and running in Helena to test samples from individuals potentially exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
"What happens if there's an individual that needs to be tested: The providers call their local public health that communicates with us, and we organize everything to get the specimens up here and are able to do the testing."
Positive samples would be forwarded to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.
Gov. Bullock says the state lab has stockpiled 200 tests, and the state can get more if needed.
If someone in Montana does test positive for the coronavirus, Bullock says the state will let the public know as soon as possible.
Marissa Perry, the governor's communications director, says the state will also make information about the infected person’s location public.
Bullock says the state is taking precautions and that he doesn't want to suggest fear or hysteria.
"We should all go about our regular daily lives with the recognition that this is changing, and it’s moving quickly, and there’s impacts, and other states have seen those impacts. And it wouldn’t be surprising by any measure for Montana to get a COVID-19 case at some point."
The governor’s Coronavirus Task Force force includes half a dozen cabinet members and state government department leaders, and will coordinate the public health response to the virus with state, federal and local officials.
Bullock says the state has about $2 million in its emergency fund to use on initial efforts against the coronavirus, if needed.
It’s unclear if the state will seek additional money from the federal government. Bullock says the state would have to see what’s needed.
Public health officials and area hospitals in Yellowstone County announced they’ve created a unified health command to prepare for possible spread of the coronavirus.
Montana State University Tuesday announced it’s activating an incident management team to address questions and plan for potential contingencies on campus.