Montana Public Radio

Yellowstone County

A 2020 Montana primary election absentee ballot
Nicky Ouellet / Yellowstone Public Radio

Several Montana tribal nations and legal nonprofits on Monday filed a lawsuit challenging two new laws they say disenfranchise American Indian voters.

A closeup satellite image shows a thick layer of wildfire smoke covering Idaho and Montana, September 4, 2017.

Three Montana counties: Lewis & Clark, Ravalli and Lincoln, rank nationally among the 25 counties most polluted by short-term or year-round particle air pollution. That’s according to a new American Lung Association report that says wildfires are the main culprit

A syringe in a COVID-19 vaccine bottle.

COVID-19 cases continued to fall last month in Yellowstone County. County health officials say the numbers are trending in the right direction as vaccines become more available.

According to health officials, nearly 470 Yellowstone County residents tested positive for COVID-19 in March. That’s a 38-percent decline from February and about a third of the cases identified in January.

A gloved hand swabs a person's arm, prepping it for a shot.

More than 1,700 COVID vaccine appointments in Yellowstone County remain open this week. County health officials say the demand for COVID-19 vaccines is falling.

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.

Yellowstone County is opening COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults age 16 and older this week. It’s one of the first large counties in Montana to take this step.

Riverstone Health, the county’s health department, announced Tuesday morning that about 1,000 appointments to receive the free vaccine were unclaimed by residents in priority groups, leading the county to expand eligibility.

“The most important thing is to get the vaccine into arms. So we worked with our state partners to get the OK and open it up," said Health Officer John Felton.

A virus threatening to wipe out entire populations of rabbits across multiple states was found for the first time in Montana recently.

Four dead feral rabbits in Yellowstone County tested positive earlier this month for a virus that causes Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, according to the Montana Department of Livestock.

The highly contagious and fatal disease threatens domestic and wild rabbit populations, as well as hares and pikas. It does not affect humans.

A Teton County Public Health nurse gives EMS worker Sherwin Smith his COVID-19 vaccine in Choteau on Jan. 8, 2021.
Aaron Bolton / Montana Public Radio

COVID-19 vaccination efforts in counties across the state are shifting from health care workers to  community members. Limited supply has been a problem, but some counties say it's the unpredictability of that supply that’s the real barrier to carrying out plans to vaccinate the public.

Social services in Billings are opening a temporary shelter to meet the city’s need for isolated sleeping spaces as COVID-19 cases rise and temperatures drop.

The Off the Streets Shelter just north of downtown Billings is the creation of local healthcare and social service organizations in a coalition aimed at decreasing homelessness in the area.

Yellowstone County Continuum of Care expects the 50 to 60 person capacity at the former Western Inn to handle any overflow of people seeking a space to sleep at local shelters over the next year.

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.'

The vast majority of Montana counties aren’t taking Gov. Steve Bullock up on his offer to help pay for the enforcement of public health guidelines aimed at slowing a surge in COVID-19 cases. It's been two weeks since the governor offered extra support in federal CARES Act funds to pay for counties' enforcement work.*