Montana Public Radio

COVID-19

As college students move in to dorms on Montana university campuses this week, some are already moved into isolation units, sick with COVID-19.

Classes will begin at Montana State University and the University of Montana next week. Officials from both universities say they won’t be publishing how many students are sick with the COVID-19 illness during the semester.

School hallway.
iStock

For the first time in months, students will be heading back to class in-person. What schools look like will depend on each school district, their community and what public health officials are comfortable with. Montana Public Radio’s Aaron Bolton joins Corin Cates-Carney to explain.

Elsie Arntzen is Montana's superintendent of public instruction.
Montana Legislature

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The ongoing dispute between Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and the state’s schools chief deepened Thursday when Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen blasted Bullock for announcing a school mask requirement without consulting her.

Arntzen is a Republican running for reelection in November, while Bullock, a Democrat, is running for U.S. Senate.

Montana is allocating new economic assistance for businesses in the live entertainment industry.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Aug. 12 announced the state will expand grants using federal coronavirus relief dollars to prop up businesses hurting from the economic downturn sparked by the pandemic.

"Without additional support for our live entertainment venues we risk losing those cultural assets, permanently," Bullock said.

Montana Capitol building.
Nick Mott / MTPR

The state’s budget has healthy reserves to make up for revenue shortfalls amid economic fallout due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to state finance experts.

On Wednesday, Legislative Fiscal Division staff presented a report predicting the state’s reserves can cover projected losses through the next fiscal year, but that the rainy day fund will be weaker by the 2023 biennium.

An illustration shows proper hand-washing and mask use to help prevent the spread of contagious diseases.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Gov. Steve Bullock changed his stance on masks in schools Wednesday and is now directing students attending class in counties with four or more COVID-19 cases to wear masks.

Bullock issued a mid-July directive mandating Montanans wear masks inside businesses and other public buildings that reside in counties with four or more COVID-19 cases. The directive did not apply to schools at that time, he said.

Donna Hosmer of the DPHHS State Public Health Laboratory labels tubes to be used in the COVID-19 testing process before the information is entered into a computer system for tracking purposes.
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services

A Kalispell assisted-living facility breathed a small sigh of relief Wednesday when its residents’ COVID-19 tests came back negative. Those results took more than a week to return.

Initial tests were given high priority by the state lab, and a state health official says this kind of delay in results is uncommon.

Changes In Child Care Standards Could Close Provider's Doors
Province of British Columbia

Montana is allocating $50 million to increase the availability of child care in response to COVID-19, Gov. Steve Bullock said Tuesday.

“As more Montanans return to work and families prepare for the upcoming school year, we must ensure there are options to provide high-quality and flexible care during this emergency,” Bullock said in a statement.

Northern Cheyenne President Rynalea Pena Aug. 9 ordered a reservation-wide lockdown through Wednesday, August 19, citing a surge in COVID-19 cases and people not following existing health mandates meant to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Montana lawmakers are working out plans for what their 2021 session will look like and there’s still plenty up in the air, like whether they’ll be required to wear face masks.

Legislative staff have explored whether local or state health rules, like Gov. Steve Bullock’s statewide mask mandate, apply to legislators in the Capitol building. Staff told lawmakers during an interim planning committee meeting Monday that there’s no clear answer.

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