Montana Public Radio

Montana Coronavirus And COVID-19 News

Jul 10, 2020

07/10/20, 5 p.m.

Two more people have died as a result of a coronavirus outbreak at a memory care facility in Billings, bringing the number of deaths associated with the facility to five. RiverStone Health says a man in his 90s and a man in his 80s, both patients at the Canyon Creek Memory Care facility, died Thursday. Both men were residents of the facility, which has reported 66 cases of the virus, including 45 among residents.

The new deaths were announced Friday, the same day Montana reported a daily record of 127 newly confirmed cases of the virus. That brings the state’s total number of known people now sick with COVID-19 to more than 700.

Yellowstone County remains the state’s largest host spot with over 250 known active cases. Gallatin county fallows that with more than 130. There are 50 active cases reported in Missoula, where health officials this week required face covering for indoor public places.

07/09/20, 5:45 p.m.

The Missoula City-County Board of Health today adopted a rule to require face coverings in businesses, government buildings and other indoor spaces open to the public. The mandate calls for, "cloth, paper, or disposable face covering that covers the nose and the mouth and which does not have an exhalation valve. The term includes medical-grade masks, but does not include face shields."

The rule applies to people ages 12 and up, with exemptions for workers maintaining a 6 foot distance and not interacting with the public; when eating or drinking; and if doing an activity that makes wearing a face covering physically impractical or unsafe. Read more.

Yellowstone County health officials say an outbreak of COVID-19 at a memory care facility in Billings has led to three deaths. RiverStone Health says a woman in her 70s, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 90s have died this week, raising the state's COVID-19 death toll to 26.

After the outbreak at the facility was announced earlier this week, Gov. Steve Bullock stated he’d be issuing an emergency rule requiring long term care and assisted living centers in Montana to participate in surveillance testing as a condition of allowing visitors. That rule is not yet in place. In a statement today, spokesperson Marissa Perry said the state health department is in the process of drafting the rule and it needs to go through a legal review process.

Montana today reported a daily record 96 new cases of the respiratory virus, bringing the state's total number of known cases to 1,466. 645 people are currently sick with the virus.

Applications for unemployment benefits fell to 2,613 in the week ending July 4, a decrease of 3% from the previous week.

Billings Pre-Release Center Residents Say Conditions Poor Following Two COVID-19 Detections

Residents of a corrections facility in Billings remain quarantined amid two recently-discovered COVID-19 cases. Multiple residents say they're concerned the virus could spread further within the building following what they call insufficient care for their safety. Read more.

Chippewa Cree Order Temporary Lockdown As COVID-19 Case Count Rises

A rise in Covid-19 cases on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation has led to drastic emergency measures.

The Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Incident Command has called for a complete reservation shutdown, including a temporary, seven-day lockdown of borders from July 8 through 15. Read more.

Feds Release Data On Paycheck Protection Loan Recipients

Tens of thousands of businesses and nonprofit organizations across Montana have benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a massive federal effort that has routed billions of dollars into subsidized bank loans intended to help small businesses keep workers on payroll during the economic disruption prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. Read more.

Billings Pre-Release Center Residents Say Conditions Poor Following Two COVID-19 Detections

Residents of a corrections facility in Billings remain quarantined amid two recently-discovered COVID-19 cases. Multiple residents say they're concerned the virus could spread further within the building following what they call insufficient care for their safety. Read more.

Community COVID-19 Testing Events To Be Held In Billings, Livingston, Gardiner

Several Montana communities are offering free COVID-19 testing in coming days to check for undetected infections. Read more.

Trump Fundraiser With Known COVID-19 Case Forces Montana Candidates Into Quarantine

News broke on Fourth of July that a handful of Montana’s high-profile elected officials and political candidates were potentially exposed to COVID-19 during two of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign events. This week, we learned where those events took place and who attended. Read more.

07/08/20, 5:15 p.m.

Local governments and agencies are placing restrictions on gatherings and are urging residents to wear masks as the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Montana continues to increase.

The Whitefish City Council adopted a resolution encouraging mask use. Lewis and Clark County set stringent guidelines on events with between 50 and 249 attendees, and prohibits events with more than 250 attendees to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Montana University System has changed its stance on recommending the use of face masks on campus. The university system’s reopening task force now says masks should be a requirement.

The Montana University System’s Healthy Fall Task Force initially put out its guidance for reopening colleges and universities in the state in early June. Amongst that guidance was a recommendation, not a requirement for students and staff to wear masks.

Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education Brock Tessman says, “I want to be clear. There’s never been any doubt about our support for masks on campuses. It’s been about finding the right way to maximize the use of masks.”

Tessman says the rising COVID-19 case numbers in the state and more college-aged individuals accounting for more of those cases were among the reasons the task force was called back to reconsider a mask requirement.

"And then the honest truth is that there’s just been more and more conversation among our students our faculty, our staff, members of our communities, and then importantly, last week with the board of regents.”

Tessman says the task force’s request that masks be required on campus will be made into a formal policy by university system administrators, though he wasn’t able to provide a timeline for that process.

Montana reported 44 more cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the state's total number of known cases to 1,371.

07/07/20, 5:30 p.m.

Montana health officials announced 80 new cases of the COVID-19 illness Tuesday. The number includes over 50 cases in Yellowstone County, the majority of which are connected to an assisted living facility in Billings

The Canyon Creek Memory Care Community in Billings says all of its residents and staff had been tested on Friday after a staff member recently tested positive for the virus. Two of the 43 residents that tested positive were hospitalized and the rest remain at Canyon Creek. Results for 24 staff and residents are pending.

Yellowstone County has the most active cases in Montana with 325. Gallatin County comes in second with 308.

There are 588 active coronavirus cases in the state, with 22 active hospitalizations. A total of 716 people have recovered from the disease, and 23 have died.

Officials from Lake County and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes announced Tuesday there is evidence that COVID-19 is community spread in the Mission Valley.

The Lake County-CSKT Unified Command Center says there are 22 active cases in Lake County and on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Several cases identified in recent days have no known sources for contracting the virus, suggesting community spread.

That concerns public health officials, who say the area has a limited number of health professionals to respond to a significant increase in cases. The reservation remains under a shelter-in-pace order, though tribal leaders voted last month to lift that order July 13. The tribes have not said whether recent cases will impact that decision.

Tenants Worried About Montana's Emergency Housing Assistance Backlog

It’s the start of the month, which means housing payments are due for many Montanans. Amid the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic, there doesn’t yet appear to be large spikes in evictions and foreclosures. But state officials are still having trouble distributing federal housing relief dollars to the people who need them. Read more

Soap: Keeping Hands Virus Free Since 2800 B.C.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise health officials urge people to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. One of the simplest ways to keep yourself and others safe is washing your hands with soap and water. Read more

Montana Infections Set Record As Outbreak Hits Nursing Home

A Billings nursing home said 58 residents and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus and the facility has been put under quarantine. This comes as the state reported on Tuesday its highest daily total of confirmed infections since the pandemic began. Read more

Montana State Auditor Matthew Rosendale says he’s tested negative for the novel coronavirus a week after being potentially exposed at a GOP fundraising event in Gallatin County.

Rosendale, who’s running for U.S. House, was one of a handful of Republicans running for statewide office to attend the fundraiser.

Greg Gianforte’s gubernatorial runningmate Kristen Juras, his wife Susan Gianforte, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen and Republican candidate for State Auditor Troy Downing were also in attendance, according to reporting by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

All said they had been tested and were undergoing two weeks of quarantine following the event also attended by Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend. The New York Times reported Guilfoyle tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday. 

Montana has seen a striking rise in lab confirmed COVID-19 cases as the state progresses through the second phase of its reopening plan.

07/06/20, 4:30 p.m.

Montana health officials reported another 121 confirmed COVID-19 cases from Saturday through Monday, marking one of the state’s highest three-day totals since the pandemic began.

Health officials announced 39 new cases on Saturday, 45 on Sunday and 37 on Monday, pushing the total since the pandemic began to almost 1,250 cases.

The state reports that 20 people are currently hospitalized, a total of 673 have recovered and 23 people have died due to COVID-19. The state has now adminstered nearly 103,000 tests.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

More than a third of the newly confirmed cases over the weekend were in Yellowstone County, which includes Billings.

07/01/30/20, 6:00 p.m.

Montana recorded 67 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bumping the total number of COVID-19 diagnosis to 1,083.

Almost 400 people currently have the novel coronavirus. Fourteen of them are hospitalized. There have been 22 deaths and 672 recoveries in the state.

State Releases Two Sets Of School Reopening Guidelines

Two separate reopening guides for Montana schools were released on Thursday, one from the governor’s office and the other from the state’s office of public instruction. Neither document is an order, but were presented as ideas for schools to consider when reopening.

Montana’s K-12 schools shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s still unclear exactly how they plan to reopen for students this fall. Read more

Health Officials Worry Independence Day Gatherings Could Accelerate Coronavirus Spread

Montana officials announced 67 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, breaking the state’s record for most new cases in a single day. Health officials worry large gatherings for the Fourth of July could accelerate the spread of the novel coronavirus. Read more

More Than One-Third COVID-19 Deaths In Montana Were Native Americans

The most recent data analysis this week by Montana’s Department of Health and Human Services revealed more about COVID-19’s impact on Native Americans.

New analysis from the state health department shows Native Americans account for less than 7 percent of Montana’s population but were 36 percent of the 22 people who had died from Covid-19. Read more

07/01/30/20, 7:55 a.m.

Montana officials reported another 50 cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, pushing the state's total over 1,000. Gov. Steve Bullock says the virus hasn't gone away, and it is clear people have let their guard down.

The governor urged residents to continue wearing masks and taking other precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The state reported 498 cases of COVID-19 in June compared to 66 in May.

The number of infections in the state is thought to be far higher than 1,016 because many people have not been tested and people can be infected without feeling ill.

State, city and county officials are increasing calls for residents to wear masks as the number of COVID-19 cases in Montana grows.

In a tweet Wednesday, Gov. Steve Bullock encouraged people to wear masks when in crowds and when indoors. Bullock has not gone so far as to order wearing masks in public places.

Missoula’s mayor and county commissioners want an order, and have asked the county health officer to issue an order requiring masks in licensed businesses. Mayor John Engen and three commissioners made the request of Ellen Leahy in a letter dated June 30th.

The city officials said requiring face coverings in all businesses licensed by the local health department or the city of Missoula seems reasonable and timely given the surge of COVID-19 cases.

The state reported 50 new cases on Wednesdays, bringing the total number of Montanans sickened by the virus to over 1,000. Nearly 60% of the active cases are in Missoula, Gallatin, Yellowstone and Big Horn counties.

Bozeman Health Officer Matt Kelley said mandatory masks will be a community decision, and it is not something health officials are going do overnight.

“The Board of Health has voiced an interest in hearing from the public, and really sharing the best science that we have out there,” he said. “It’ll be a Board of Health decision, whatever happens, and I wouldn’t presume to make a decision before then.”

The health department is focusing on educating the public about the advantages of wearing masks, Kelley said, adding people who want to wear them will.

06/30/20, 10:26 p.m.

Montana reported another 49 cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, including 20 in Missoula County. The new cases confirmed from among more than 2,000 tests run on Monday bring the state's total cases to 967.

Missoula County has stopped testing asymptomatic people and is only testing people with symptoms and their close contacts.

Gallatin County health officials issued warnings to four downtown bars for overcrowding.

County and state health officials issued a statement Tuesday urging people to wear face coverings, in part to set an example for out-of-state visitors. Officials said Montana’s tourism sector is set to continue suffering despite the state’s reopening for out-of-state visitors on June 1.

Montana Receives Second Highest Number Of COVID-19 Cases In Consecutive Days

The State of Montana reported its second highest single day uptick in COVID-19 cases on Jun. 30. This comes after a new record count was set earlier this week. Read more

Montana Veterans Offered Free COVID-19 Testing

The Montana Veterans Health Care System is offering free COVID-19 testing to veterans. In a press release, the agency said Montana Veterans enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System can get testing at thirteen locations across the state over the next two weeks.

Judy Hayman, executive director of the Montana VA health system, says veterans who are not experiencing symptoms can do drive up testing at VA facilities. Read more

Native Americans Account For 13 Percent Of Montana COVID-19 Cases

Last weekend, Montana saw its biggest spike yet in COVID-19 cases. YPR reports how the disease is impacting Native Americans across the state.

As of Jun. 29, more than 900 people in Montana have had confirmed cases of COVID-19. Native Americans account for 13 percent of the cases even though they make up less than seven percent of the state’s population. Read more

Telehealth Appointments On The Rise, Offer Options For Patients And Doctors

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began advising against face to face interactions, Montana healthcare providers sought to expand non emergency telehealth appointments. It's a trend that could keep going. Read more

MSU Researcher Says Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Were Tip Of Iceberg

Millions of people in the U.S. were infected by the novel coronavirus in March even though they were not diagnosed with COVID-19. That’s according to a new publication co authored by a researcher at Montana State University. Read more

06/29/20, 6:05 p.m.

Montana confirmed another 90 COVID-19 cases, according to test results reported from Saturday through Monday. The weekend bumped the state’s total number of known cases over 900.

Twenty-three new cases were reported on Saturday, 11 on Sunday and a one-day record of 56 Monday. Nearly 300 people in the state are known to be currently infected, and 13 are hospitalized. Gallatin and Yellowstone counties both have 55 people who are known infected.

Gallatin County health officials said cases seem to be tied to crowded places like bars, restaurants and parties. They urge residents to take the virus seriously.

Coronavirus Leaves Blackfeet Issuing Stay-At-Home Order

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation is now under a mandatory 14-day stay-at-home order after health officials reported the reservation’s first COVID-19 cases. Blackfeet and Glacier County officials identified nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents over the weekend. Read more

COVID-19 Spike Tightens Hospital Visitor Guidelines

On Monday, Montana reported a total of 919 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 56 new cases since Sunday. That’s the biggest one-day spike since the pandemic started in March.

This spike has prompted some hospitals to tighten visitor guidelines. Read more

Working From Home In Montana Possibly More Attractive Than Ever

For years, economic developers have touted the possibilities for people to live in Montana and work for companies that aren’t here. The COVID-19 shutdown has, in some ways, offered proof of that concept. Read more

Border Patrol Extends Restrictions At Northern Ports Of Entry

Six ports of entry between Montana and Canada will continue to operate at reduced hours through July 21. Travel between the two countries is still restricted to essential only amid the new coronavirus pandemic. Read more

Big Horn County Health Department Requires Residents To Wear Facial Coverings

The Big Horn County Health Department announced June 26 residents are required to wear face coverings or masks outside their homes.

Health officials say the order is in response to a sudden rise of COVID-19 cases in the county. At least 34 people in Big Horn are sick with the disease. Read more

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Get more Montana coronavirus information from the state health department, as well as updates from the CDC and tips for preventing and dealing with COVID-19.