Montana Public Radio

Matt Kelley

Following Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte’s announcement that all Montanans aged 16 and up will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 1, larger counties are outlining varying timelines and approaches for how they’ll meet that goal.

Most Montana counties are currently vaccinating people who fall into the state’s Phase 1B+, which includes those who are 60 years and up and people with certain medical conditions.

COVID-19 U.K. Variant Detected In Montana

Mar 3, 2021

A variant strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been detected for the first time in Montana.

The Montana state health department Wednesday confirmed three cases of the U.K. variant in Gallatin County.

Jon Ebelt, public information officer with the state health department, told YPR News all three individuals had recovered and the state is working with Gallatin County to learn more about the cases.

“We have been preparing for this, conducting surveillance for COVID-19 variant strains for several weeks, so this comes as no surprise,” Ebelt says.

Montana's two senators are expected to split their votes on impeachment. The governor has lifted the state's mandatory mask mandate, and Attorney General Austin Knudsen joins the effort to reverse a Biden administration decision to halt the Keystone pipeline.

Listen now on Capitol Talk with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.

Wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands frequently to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
CDC

Gov. Greg Gianforte repealed Montana’s mask mandate Friday. Many Montana health officials say it’s too soon, and some are keeping local masking requirements.

Gianforte’s directive, issued Friday morning, says, "Montanans are encouraged to wear masks." That’s a departure from the face covering requirement issued by former Gov. Steve Bullock last July

A coronavirus testing swab in a test tube.
iStock

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 releases his plans for the state’s response to COVID-19 at a press conference January 5, 2021. He said he will rescind the statewide mask mandate, but only after certain criteria are met.
James Bradley / UM Legislative News Service

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte in a press conference Wednesday signaled his decision to remove and revise COVID-19 business restrictions put in place by his predecessor.

Gianforte says this includes removing “arbitrary” capacity limits and restricted hours of operation. 

A woman receives the COVID-19 vaccine at the Bozeman fairgrounds, January 6, 2021.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

As new COVID-19 cases begin to rise again in the state, Montana’s large counties say the COVID vaccine will not be available to those in Phase 1B for at least the next few weeks due to uncertain vaccine supply.

Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley said the county is adapting its vaccine plan to match Governor Greg Gianforte’s revisions in a press conference Friday.

The number of total COVID-19 cases associated with K-12 schools in Montana has doubled over a two week stretch, according to the most recent state data. Gallatin County has started releasing supplemental weekly reports with new CDC metrics to help schools make decisions.

Over 600 students and more than 250 K-12 staff across the state tested positive for the coronavirus through Oct. 9.

Montana’s health department reported 360 new COVID-19 cases Friday. Gallatin County health officials say it feels like we’re hanging onto the ride right now rather than working together to eliminate the illness.

Gallatin County Health Officer Matt Kelley Friday said the county’s seven day rolling average of new daily cases was 53 percent higher than the week before.

He said the health department can’t slow the spread of the illness on its own.

Gallatin County’s health officer is reiterating the need for planning for group events amid the coronavirus pandemic after an outdoor rally attended by Vice President Mike Pence Monday drew several hundred people eager to catch a glimpse of one of the nation’s highest-ranking elected officials.

Gallatin County Health Officer Kelley says Gallatin County received two emails expressing concern about the Pence rally size and spacing within the crowd.

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