Montana Public Radio

Montana Coronavirus And COVID-19 News

Apr 19, 2021

04/19/21

While active COVID-19 cases in Montana are holding steady at around 1,000 cases, health officials in and around the Greater Gallatin area say new case counts are rising.

"This week Gallatin County has the highest number of cases of COVID in the state and Park County is also seeing new cases almost every day," Park County Health Officer Laurel Desnick said during her latest weekly COVID-19 update April 16.

Gallatin County reports 299 active cases, by far the most in the state. County Health officer Matt Kelley Friday said those case counts are leveling off after weeks of growth.

"Our seven-day rolling average of cases per 100,000 residents was 43.6 over the most recent reporting period. That’s down about 20 percent from where we were a week ago. We still would like to see that continue that trend."

Big Sky has also experienced a significant increase in COVID 19 cases over the past couple of weeks. That’s according to Big Sky Relief, a non-profit created late last year by the Big Sky Resort Area District to increase community testing

Park County reports 37 active cases. Health Officer Desnick says nearly 40-percent of county residents have been fully vaccinated. Over 7,000 residents have received their first dose.

"On the other hand, cases of COVID in people who have not been vaccinated continue to rise. With the UK variant now in our area the spread of the virus seems to be more rapid, especially among the young."

According to Matt Kelley, Gallatin County has at least 30 variant cases.

"The tricky part of that though is how much testing is being done in the counties to really understand if that’s an artifact of more testing that we’re doing or if that is an indication that the variants are here to a greater degree than they are in other places. I suspect it’s a mix of those two things," Kelley says.

The latest state update on variant cases — some of which spread more easily and are labeled "of concern" by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — show at least 100 cases caused by variant strains have been identified in MT. 

That report also says 40 "breakthrough" cases have been identified; these are rare coronavirus infections among the fully inoculated.

The CDC says people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Precautions like maintaining distance from others, wearing a mask and avoiding crowds are recommended even after the vaccines kick in.

04/15/21

Missoula County Lifts Some COVID Restrictions, Modifies Mask Mandate

Missoula County’s Board of Health converted many of its COVID-19 rules for bars, restaurants and gyms to recommendations Thursday. The county’s mask mandate will remain in effect, but with some changes. Read more

Can The Governor Ban Private Sector Vaccine Requirements?

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed an executive order Tuesday banning the use of COVID-19 vaccine requirements by government agencies or private businesses. But the order could be on legally shaky ground when it comes to the private sector. Read more

04/14/21

Gianforte Back In The Office After COVID-19

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has returned to work at the Capitol after isolating since earlier this month following a positive test for COVID-19.

According to governor’s office spokesperson Brooke Stroyke, Gianforte had been isolating at home in Bozeman under the guidance of his doctor since he first began experiencing symptoms on April 4. Gianforte tested positive the next day along with first lady Susan Gianforte.

In a video posted on Gianforte’s Twitter account Tuesday, he said he experienced minor symptoms.

"This is a serious illness. It left me fatigued, but I am feeling better and I’m ready to get back in the office tomorrow."

In the video, Gianforte encouraged Montanans to stay vigilant and to get a vaccine.

On Monday, a member of Gianforte’s staff tested positive for COVID-19. Stroyke said the person was not a close contact of the governor, of a legislator or of staff. She added that all staff present in the Governor’s office have tested negative for the virus every day this week.

Montana To Follow Recommended Pause On Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine

State and local health officials in Montana are following a recommended pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. The change is causing some logistical issues.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made the recommendation Tuesday after six women experienced a rare form of blood clot one to two weeks after receiving their Johnson & Johnson vaccine. According to the CDC, there have been 6.85 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered in the U.S. Read more

Governor Bans Use Of Vaccine Passports In Montana

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte issued Tuesday an executive order banning the development or use of vaccine passports in Montana.

The move by Gianforte comes as vaccine passports — documents used to verify COVID-19 immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine — have been portrayed by Republicans across the country as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices. Read more

Gov's Office Says Gianforte Is Feeling Better After COVID-19 Diagnosis; Staffer Tests Positive 

After testing positive for COVID-19 last week, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte is recovering and his wife, Susan, is asymptomatic.

According to a spokesperson for the governor’s office, Gianforte "continues to feel better."

Gianforte, who’s 59, tested positive a week ago after showing mild symptoms of the virus. First lady Susan Gianforte tested positive the following day. The governor had been in close contact with one staff member and some family and friends. 

According to Gianforte’s spokesperson Brooke Stroyke, a staffer in the office who was not identified as a close contact of the governor tested positive for COVID-19 Monday. The staffer was last in the office Friday and had received a negative COVID-19 test result that morning. 

On Monday, all other staff members in the governor’s office were tested and received a negative result.

Cascade County Shifts To Targeted Vaccination Strategy

Cascade County health officials are winding down their mass COVID-19 vaccination events. The county is shifting to a more targeted vaccination strategy with hopes of getting more doses in the arms of young people in order to reach herd immunity. Read more

04/09/21

The Missoula City County Health Department has launched a COVID-19 vaccine campaign. The effort comes as health officials in multiple counties say demand for vaccines is "softening."

Missoula County health officials announced the campaign, titled “Come Together: Vaccine for every Montanan,” Friday. The campaign will focus on distributing educational materials about the importance of getting vaccinated to participating partners and businesses. The campaign will also include community canvasing efforts to sign up residents for vaccine appointments. 

The vaccination campaign comes as Missoula and others like Yellowstone and Lincoln counties are starting to see COVID vaccine appointments go unfilled. As of Friday afternoon, hundreds of appointments remained open or unfilled, according to Missoula County’s sign-up page.

"What we’re seeing now may not be what is commonly called 'vaccine hesitancy,' it may just be vaccine convenience," Missoula Office of Emergency Management Director Adriene Beck says.

Beck says many people may not go out of their way to get a vaccine or are maybe working during regular business hours. The county has begun to offer evening and weekend vaccine appointments to reach those people.

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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.