Montana Public Radio


University of Montana's Main Hall.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

The University of Montana’s COVID-19 numbers are going to be shared each week by the Missoula City-County Health Department. Both confirmed COVID-19 cases and close contacts of COVID-19 cases will be included.

Montana unemployment rate by county on September 3, 2020.
Montana Department of Labor and Industry

Applications for unemployment assistance increased in Montana for the third consecutive week, even as national numbers are falling, the U.S. Employment and Training Administration said Thursday.

COVID goes to college

Sep 3, 2020

For months, Gallatin County was the epicenter for COVID-19 cases in Montana. The county was the first in Montana to hit 100 cases, the first to document community spread, and during the pandemic’s first month Gallatin County was home to more than half the reported cases in the state.

Advocates for Montana inmates say their fears of COVID-19 outbreaks within correctional facilities are coming true. They’re demanding state officials take bigger steps to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading further.

Signs in hand, organizers stood outside the governor’s residence in Helena on Wednesday afternoon denouncing what they call inaction on behalf of the incarcerated.

As roughly 85 percent of Billings public school students return to the classroom this fall, many families are wondering if, or when, outbreaks of the coronavirus might force courses back online. YPR News asked then sophomore Helena Brown to keep an audio diary during the first few weeks of remote learning this past spring. Her story feels relevant again now.

Violent crime in Montana’s most populated county has been on the rise since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Reports police say a majority of the increase in violent crime is connected to drug use.

Yellowstone County law enforcement officials say from March through July violent crime rose nearly 21 percent compared to the same time period last year.

"This means we had 67 more violent crimes and 67 more victims during that time. And the crimes are more serious. With murders, shootings, stabbings and a 44 percent increase in robberies," said U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme.

Congressman Greg Gianforte on Sept. 1 toured Montana State University’s new COVID-19 testing site for students, as well as a lab that tests hundreds of samples from around the state in a day.

Next to a big white tent at Bobcat Stadium, Director of Emergency Management Haylee Gerow says students with COVID-19 symptoms can walk or drive up for a nasal swab and be on their way in about three minutes.

She says they’ve swabbed around 10 students per day since it opened Aug. 27 at noon. On Aug. 31 this week, that number bumped up to around 30.

University of Montana's oval and Main Hall.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

As college students returned to class, Montana’s two largest universities are not disclosing COVID-19 cases on campus. Local health departments are taking different approaches when it comes to reporting the numbers. Some faculty say they’d feel safer knowing the details of COVID-19’s movement at their school.

Fall school sports, like almost everything in 2020, will look different this year due to COVID-19. The biggest difference: Many schools aren’t allowing spectators. Some parents have pushed back against the restrictions.

Tyler Smith has put three of his four sons through the Sentinel High School football program in Missoula. He’s frustrated he can’t watch his sophomore compete this fall.

"If you have to social distance, if you need to check our temperature before we come in, fine, if that’s what it needs to be then fine," Smith said.

The global pandemic will likely lead to revenue shortfalls at the University of Montana, according to its president, despite the school’s improved recruitment efforts.

UM’s annual start-of-semester State of the University address normally provides the chance to boast about campus achievements and outline a vision for the future. But, like almost everything else in 2020, Thursday’s address was like no other.