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COVID-19 in Montana: 198 cases; 5 deaths (Tuesday PM, March 31)

Nine confirmed cases reported in Cascade County
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Posted at 5:05 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 19:40:49-04

GREAT FALLS — As of Tuesday evening (March 31), there are now 198 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Montana, and five deaths.

The first death was 77-year old Lincoln County resident Jim Tomlin, whose death was reported on Friday. On Sunday afternoon, the death of a Madison County resident was announced. On Monday, officials in Toole County confirmed two deaths attributed to COVID-19. On Tuesday, Governor Steve Bullock said there has been a fifth death; no other details have been released at this point about the most recent case.

There have now been 15 hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Montana.

Here are the counties with the most confirmed cases in Montana: Gallatin 74; Yellowstone 31; Missoula 14; Lewis & Clark 12; Flathead 11; Butte-Silver Bow 10; Cascade 9; Toole 6; Madison 6; Lincoln 5; Broadwater 3; Deer Lodge 3; Lake 3; Park 3.

Governor Steve Bullock said during a Tuesday news conference that of the 198 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Montana, 32 of them have recovered.

Officials in Montana are keeping a list of confirmed cases in the Treasure State on an updated map and website - click here to visit the site. Each county with confirmed cases can be clicked, which shows how many cases there are, and provides the gender and the age range for all cases. County health departments and the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services release data by county only, and do not provide information on which towns the patients live in. In some cases, patients or family members have chosen to publicly release information.

As of Tuesday evening, the DPHHS public health lab in Helena has completed 4,558 tests for COVID-19. Officials know that the number of actual cases is undoubtedly much higher, and are continuing to test in accordance with CDC guidelines. The "recovery rate" for Montana has not yet been determined, as COVID-19 is still relatively new in our state and there is not enough data to calculate an accurate rate at this point.

Bullock issued an order on Tuesday prohibiting evictions of tenants and prohibiting landlords from charging late fees on rentals for the duration of his "stay at home" order, which runs through April 10th (but could be extended). The order also prevents water or heat from being shut off during the state of emergency; several utility companies in Montana have already announced they were forgoing utility shutoffs during this period. Click here for more details.

CASCADE COUNTY CASES: There are now NINE confirmed cases in Cascade County, an increase of one from previous reports: two women in their 20s; one man in his 30s; one man in his 40; two women and two men in their 50; one man in his 80s. The City-County Health Department in Great Falls continue working to identify anyone that these patients may have come into contact with, and trying to contact anyone who may have been exposed. The City-County Health Department in Great Falls has declined to release any other details of the confirmed cases due to federal privacy laws such as HIPAA. There is no prohibition on a patient (or surviving family member) from publicly releasing information about his or her case.

ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES: Governor Bullock last Thursday issued a directive requiring Montanans to stay home and temporarily closes all nonessential businesses and operations as efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) continue.

The order went into effect on Saturday, March 28. The order will be in effect through Friday, April 10, and requires all businesses and operations in Montana, except for essential businesses and operations as defined in the directive, to stop all activities within the state. KRTV has received many questions from employees and businesses about what "essential" means, and why some businesses have remained open that some people don't believe are "essential."

Great Falls City Manager Greg Doyon offered some clarification. Most businesses that believe they are not considered essential have made the decision to close out of concern for public health and that of their own employees. If a business has decided to remain open, there aren't any penalties at this time. Doyon said that the city is following public health guidelines and the governor's directive before they would request that any business close its doors, and hopes that businesses use common sense. If there is a specific instance of a major public health concern, the County Attorney may act on behalf of the City-County Health Department, but Doyon says we aren't at that point yet. Click here for a list of businesses that are considered "essential" at this point.

Employees who are not sure if they are considered essential should talk with their manager/business owner. Business owners with questions can call at 1-800-755-6672.

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