How Montana's New Laws Limit Public Health Powers
Montana’s Republican majority this legislative session took aim at public health officials’ authority, saying they overstepped in their COVID-19 response with mask mandates and business closures. Montana Public Radio’s Aaron Bolton explains the impacts of the bills that passed and those that didn’t. Read more
Montana Lawmakers Boosting Summer Federal Food Assistance Benefits
Montana lawmakers voted Thursday to give 14,000 women, children and infants receiving public food assistance a boost in benefits this summer. The money is meant to help them buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Read more
State Superintendent ‘Strongly Recommends’ Ditching School Mask Mandates Next Year
Montana’s superintendent of public instruction “strongly recommends” school districts rescind any mask requirements for the upcoming school year, starting this fall. The recommendation came after federal guidance suggested sticking with face coverings for now. Read more
Commissions Created To Advise How Federal Pandemic Relief Funds Are Spent
Four newly established advisory commissions will make recommendations to Montana’s governor on how to spend more than $1.5 billion of federal pandemic relief funds. Read more
Montana To Extend Federal Food Assistance Program For Low-Income Families
About 15,000 Montana children are expected to benefit from the extension of a government food assistance program that was boosted during the pandemic. The state health department says it will continue offering a temporary food assistance program for families paid for by the federal government. Read more
CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Can Stop Wearing Masks
Federal health officials say people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can go about life mask-free, though some places still require them. Some local health officials say the change could motivate unvaccinated people to get the shot. Read more
Two Shots And A Beer: Montana Businesses Offer Incentives To Boost Vaccination Rates
A shot and a beer has taken on a new meaning during the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses in Montana are trying to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19 by offering free beer, doughnuts and other incentives in what they call an effort to get life back to normal. Read more
Cascade County Is Now The Largest COVID-19 Hotspot In Montana
Cascade County continues to see its number of COVID-19 cases rise and is now the largest hotspot in Montana. Read more
More COVID-19 Cases From Variant Strains Detected In Montana
Three cases of COVID-19 caused by a variant strain first identified in Brazil have been found in Montana, adding to the state’s growing count of variant cases. Read more
County Officials Say They Can’t Enforce Health Restrictions Under New Montana Law
Republican Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed into law a policy that county officials say prevents them from enforcing emergency public health restrictions, like mask mandates. Read more
Labor Shortages And Tourism Boom Could Overwhelm Montana’s Hospitality Industry
America’s employers added just 266,000 jobs last month. That’s sharply lower than in March and a sign that some businesses are struggling to find enough workers as the economic recovery strengthens. It’s a problem for Montana’s hospitality industry, which expects tourists to return in droves this summer. Read more
What Slowing Vaccine Rates Mean For One Rural Montana County
KALISPELL, Mont. — The COVID vaccination operation at the Flathead County fairgrounds can dole out 1,000 doses in seven hours. But demand has plummeted recently, down to fewer than 70 requests for the shots a day. Read more
Missoula County lifted its mask mandate Monday, effectively ending all COVID-19 restrictions for the general public in the area.
The Missoula City-County Health Department made the announcement after more than 60% of eligible residents got at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Read more
Pfizer Vaccine Approved For Some Minors, But Parents Remain Hesitant
Federal health officials approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds Monday. Urban counties are scheduling appointments for interested families, but access to the vaccine continues to be an issue in rural areas. Read more
New Montana Law Blocks Health Mandates That Affect Businesses
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed into law a bill Friday that prohibits actions — such as those taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus — that would affect the bottom line for businesses. As a result of the new law, both Lewis and Clark and Gallatin counties said they could no longer enforce mask mandates. Read more
COVID-19 Cases Are Spiking Among The Young, Unvaccinated In Some Montana Counties
A few counties across Montana are seeing notable spikes in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Flathead, Park and Cascade county health officials say the virus is affecting the old and young alike. Read more
Montana Will Vaccinate 2,000 Alberta Truckers
Montana and Alberta officials Friday announced they have signed an agreement that Montana will provide COVID-19 vaccines to truck drivers from Alberta. About 2,000 Canadian truckers authorized to cross the U.S.-Canadian border will be eligible.
Vaccines will be offered to truck drivers starting Monday at a truck stop near Conrad. Signage along I-15 will direct truckers where to go to receive their shot.
Canada has struggled to buy enough vaccines in order to keep up with demand and as of this week, only 30 percent of Albertans had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine compared to 42 percent of Montanans. Both Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a press release that the effort to vaccinate Canadian truck drivers aims to keep goods flowing across the border.
North Dakota has also offered vaccines to truck drivers and the Blackfeet Nation has been vaccinating their tribal counterparts of the Blackfoot Confederacy.
Younger Montanans Lag In COVID-19 Vaccinations
Montana state health officials say more Montanans aged 59 and younger need to roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine. State numbers show the younger the age demographic is, the worse the vaccination rate is. Read more
96 Percent Of Vaccinated Montanans Returning For Second COVID-19 Dose
About 96% of Montanans who received their first COVID-19 vaccine are showing up for their second dose, according to the state health department. That’s slightly better than the national rate recently reported by federal health officials. Read more
Research Examines 'Deaths Of Despair' In Montana
Research into nearly 200,000 Montana death records from the last two decades has put hard numbers to anecdotes about suicides and drug- and alcohol-related deaths during the pandemic. Read more
Restaurant Relief Application Period Opens May 3
The U.S. Small Business Administration will open applications for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund on Monday, May 3.
The federal grant program will provide $28.6 billion to restaurants and other food and drink establishments — including bakeries and food trucks — that have suffered during the pandemic. Read more
Senators Tester, Daines Encourage Montanans To Get COVID-19 Vaccine
Montana Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines Tuesday released a joint public-service announcement encouraging all Montanans to get their COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Read more
State Health Department Again Recommending Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
Montana’s state health department is recommending that providers in the state resume administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Federal health officials Friday lifted the pause on the shot. Health officials say the benefits outweigh the risks of very rare blood clots potentially linked to the vaccine. Read more
Blackfeet Nation Takes Vaccine Surplus North
The Blackfeet Nation this week provided hundreds of surplus COVID-19 vaccines to their counterparts from the Blackfoot Confederacy and other residents of southern Alberta.
Blackfeet Nation spokesperson James McNeely said the tribe has been looking for ways to use its surplus COVID vaccines, as about 98% of eligible residents on the reservation are fully vaccinated. They started by offering to bring shots into other counties, but supplies across Montana have been outstripping demand for weeks now. Read more
Gianforte Receives Second COVID-19 Shot, Encourages Montanans To Vaccinate
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte received his second dose of a COVID vaccine on Friday. He and other Republican leaders are encouraging all Montanans to get their shots.
In a video Gianforte released after getting his second dose he said, "I just got my second shot, I’m feeling great and I would just encourage folks to get out and get their shot. This is how we get through this together." Read more
Falling COVID Vaccine Demand Forces Pivot To 'Vaccine Maybes'
Demand for COVID-19 vaccines across Montana is falling. Health officials in many counties say the decline is in part due to vaccine hesitancy, which could make reaching herd immunity difficult. But there are efforts to convince those who are still on the fence to get their shot. Read more