Governor provides update on Montana's COVID-19 response

Posted at 2:02 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 17:40:43-04

Governor Steve Bullock said during a news conference on Friday that he’s working on a “phased reopening” of Montana, provided that the state meets key metrics that show the spread of COVID-19 is slowing.

Bullock said that he’s planning to release a detailed plan next week. He’s working with his newly-created COVID-19 task force, which consists of business, public health, government leaders, and Major General Matthew Quinn, head of the Montana National Guard.

Bullock said the state must meet three benchmarks to begin the phased reopening:

  • A sustained reduction in new COVID-19 cases for 14 days. Bullock said the number of cases has fallen over the week, and he expects the trend to continue next week.
  • Hospitals must be able to safely treat all patients. Bullock said Montana hospitals must have bed capacity to handle COVID-19 patients and other patients.
  • Montana must have the capacity to test all people with COVID-19 symptoms.

As businesses reopen, Bullock said he expects they will still be required to observe social-distancing guidance and other measures, including temperature checks of employees and cleaning requirements of high-traffic areas. “Once we reopen, we’ve got to be able to stay open,” Bullock said.

Bullock has issued orders to close all schools and to stay at home, which closed all businesses deemed non-essential, including bars, dine-in restaurants, personal-service businesses, and others that attract groups of people. Those orders are set to expire on April 24, barring any extension.

Bullock’s announcement came a day after President Trump said the federal government would provide guidelines for governors to reopen states on their own timelines. In a Thursday news conference, Trump specifically cited Montana as a rural state that could start reopening ahead of other states that have significantly more cases of COVID-19.

Bullock said he wants to work with both public-health officials and businesses to determine how and when to lift closure orders. “If we get this wrong, it will hurt us even more,” Bullock added.

As of Friday, there have been a total of 422 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Montana, an increase of seven since Thursday.

  • There have now been nine deaths to date in Montana. There have been four deaths in Toole County, and one each in Lincoln County, Madison County, Missoula County, Flathead County, and Cascade County.
  • There have now been 54 hospitalizations to date of COVID-19 patients in Montana; 21 of those are considered "active (current) hospitalizations."
  • There have been a total of 233 recovered patients to date.
  • The DPHHS public health lab has completed 10,244 tests for COVID-19, including 308 tests since Thursday's update.

You can watch the entire news conference below or by clicking here.