Montana Public Radio


Rep. Becky Beard (R) - HD80
Montana Legislature

A fourth Montana state lawmaker has tested positive for COVID-19 after working in-person at the Capitol in Helena. Nearly two dozen close contacts have been identified in connection with positive cases tied to the Capitol.

The University of Montana campus.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Montana’s flagship universities released their spring 2021 enrollment numbers this week, with both  reporting fewer students than a year ago. MTPR's Aaron Bolton reports on how those schools are faring through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Greg Gianforte signs a COVID liability protection bill into law. Republican leaders, including the bill's sponsor, Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick (far left), joined Gianforte for the ceremony. Feb, 10. 2021.
Shaylee Ragar / Montana Public Radio

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Wednesday that he will lift the statewide mask mandate on Friday. The timing comes as Gianforte signs a bill into law to protect businesses from COVID-19 litigation.

At a House Judiciary Committee meeting at the Montana Capitol January 5, 2021 lawmakers wearing masks and those with bare faces sat next to each other. Some committee chairs are requiring participants to adhere to public health guidance, others aren't.
Shaylee Ragar / Montana Public Radio

Some Helena businesses are raising concerns about state legislators flouting public health guidance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lewis and Clark County health officer says she's received reports concerning lawmakers who are in town for the current legislative session.

Former Army Tank Mechanic Robert Boore, 77, gets his COVID-19 vaccine at the VA’s mass vaccination clinic in Kalispell February 3, 2021. The VA vaccinated 400 veterans 75 years old and up, as well as those with select underlying health conditions.
Aaron Bolton / Montana Public Radio

Four hundred veterans got COVID-19 vaccine doses last week in Kalispell. The Montana VA Health Care System is standing up temporary clinics to get shots to vets in rural areas. But amid the nationwide vaccine shortage, some vets are confused about the process and are looking outside of the VA to get a shot.

A robotic thermometer near an entrance to the state Capitol in Helena. January 2021.
Shaylee Ragar / Montana Public Radio

A third Montana lawmaker has tested positive for COVID-19.

Rep. Brian Putnam, a Republican from Kalispell, is the third lawmaker to test positive for the coronavirus since the 2021 legislative session began in January. He has been working at the Capitol in person. 

Sign on a business door that says 'Attention: for the safety of our patrons and employees, masks are required for entry. Thank you for helpping slow the spread of COVID-19.'

A bill which would protect businesses from being held liable for COVID-19 spread has been endorsed by both legislative chambers and is now heading to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk for consideration.

Nearly 2,400 loans have been approved for small businesses, nonprofits and faith based organizations in Montana through the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s most recent report shows more than $35 billion worth of PPP loans had been approved nationwide as of January 24. Nearly $160 million of that went to Montana.

A coronavirus testing swab in a test tube.

Even with vaccine doses rolling out, testing is still critical for tracing and containing the coronavirus. But throughout 2020the White House Coronavirus Task Force consistently said that Montana wasn’t testing enough to contain the spread. Now, institutions statewide have set up their own testing, and are reporting the results to county health departments.

Gov. Greg Gianforte says Montana is seeing a trend of lower hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases but is not getting enough vaccine from the federal level.

Gianforte announced in a press conference Friday that Montana is passing a COVID-19 vaccine landmark.

"Today we are approaching a milestone with nearly 100,000 vaccines administered here in the state and nearly twenty-five thousand Montanans who have been fully immunized," he said.