Montana Public Radio

Governor: Montana's Four Positive COVID-19 Cases Contracted Out-of-State

Mar 14, 2020

Find the latest coronavirus news here: Montana Coronavirus And COVID-19 News

The four people in Montana diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness caused by the novel coronavirus appear to have contracted it while outside of the state, according to state officials.

Gov. Steve Bullock held a press conference Saturday afternoon after announcing the first cases of the COVID-19 illness in Montana the night before. He also announced amendments to the state’s emergency declaration, extended lab testing and previewed new policies for state employees working under the COVID-19 threat.

All four of the patients that have tested positive are at home recovering in isolation.

“Fortunately, information collected so far indicates most had self isolated, as had their household members,” said Gregory Holzman, state medical officer. “In addition, early indications are that health care providers and patients made every effort to minimize risk in the health care setting.”

Local public health staff are investigating who the patients may have come into contact with and may be at risk.

Holzman says “close contacts” will be counseled regarding risk, level of quarantine and monitoring they’ll be asked to comply with by public health officials.

Coronavirus prevention tips from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

The Governor’s office is creating a “State Emergency Coordination Center” Monday with full-time staff located at Fort Harrison to work on the state’s response to coronavirus.

Bullock said by Monday, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services laboratory will start testing COVID-19 samples every day, an increase from the current weekday hours. Patient eligibility for testing for the COVID-19 illness is determined by local physicians with guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Again I can’t stress enough the importance of the role the public needs to play in mitigating the impact of this virus, Bullock said. “The small sacrifice we can make now; missing out on a canceled event or avoiding large crowds and joining kind of small groups of helping family and friends. And most certainly staying home if you feel sick. That does mean keeping more folks healthy in the long run. We always have to recognize the person ahead of us at the grocery store could be among those most at risk of falling ill to the virus.”

Bullock has also amended his original executive order declaring a state of emergency in Montana to align in with federal emergency orders. This means as long as federal authorities say there is a threat due to the novel coronavirus, Montana will, too.

Bullock’s state of emergency order frees up $16 million in state funding for COVID-19 response. The CDC has outlined $5.4 million for Montana to use. The Trump Administration emergency declaration this week allows the state to receive additional reimbursements for costs related to the coronavirus pandemic.

[Related: Montana Coronavirus And COVID-19 News]

On Monday, the Governor’s office is expected to give state employees updated guidance on working under the threat of COVID-19.

Bullock said part of those policies will include two weeks of paid leave for state employees who are required to quarantine and up to 30 days of paid sick leave if a state employee is sick with COVID-19 and needs medical care.

Bullock said he’s been encouraged by the federal government “to act quickly on sick and paid leave beyond just our public employees and encouraging all private employers to offer paid leave to their employees if they’re impacted.”

The people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Montana include:

  • a Gallatin County man in his 40s, who acquired the illness while traveling internationally

  • a Yellowstone County woman in her 50s, who also acquired the illness abroad

  • a Silver Bow County man in his 50s, who contracted the illness while in Washington state

  • a Broadwater County man in his 50s, who acquired the illness also in Washington.

When the Governor’s office first announced the cases, officials listed the Broadwater County patient from Lewis and Clark County. Officials corrected this Saturday, saying the patient is from Broadwater but sought care in Lewis and Clark.

A part-time Montana resident tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Maryland last week and is receiving care there. Public health officials say that individual didn’t have the virus while in Montana.

As of Friday, no public school districts had announced plans to move to remote learning or school closures. The Montana High School Association canceled the remainder of school basketball tournaments scheduled for Saturday shortly after the positive in state COVID-19 cases were announced.

The Montana State University System is moving to remote and online classes starting March 23.

Across the state, large events like the Butte St. Patrick’s Day Parade, are being canceled out of concern over the coronavirus. Public health officials are encouraging event organizers to consider postponing or cancelling to avoid large gatherings of people.

The state has created https://covid19.mt.gov for the public to learn more information about Montana’s response.

The state COVID-19 call line is 1-888-333-0461.