GREAT FALLS — The Walmart store at 701 Smelter Avenue NE in Great Falls is reducing its hours of operation in response to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country.
The store is usually open 24 hours daily. The company said on its website that all other 24-hour stores are also changing their hours: "Starting March 15, Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets will be open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice. This will help ensure associates can clean and stock products. Stores currently operating under more reduced hours (for example they regularly close at 10 p.m. or open at 7 a.m.) will keep their current hours of operation."
Walmart says that stores are cleaned daily, which includes using sanitizing solutions in high-touch, high-traffic areas. They have increased their focus on cleaning and have dedicated some employees to maintain key areas throughout the day. The company also says that it has authorized store managers to manage their inventory, including the discretion to "limit sales quantities on items that are in unusually high demand."
The Walmart store at 5320 10th Avenue South on the east side of Great Falls is not changing its hours of operation; it will remain open from 6 a.m. to midnight daily. (UPDATE: we have been told that this store will be closing at 11 p.m. daily)
Other retailers have modified some policies in response to coronavirus, too. People have been buying several types of items in bulk in recent days, notably toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and even baby wipes. Some grocery stores, including Albertsons on the west side of Great Falls, have placed signs in the toilet paper aisle asking customers to limit their purchases to just two packages of toilet paper.
(SATURDAY, MARCH 14) Governor Steve Bullock on Saturday said in a news release that two presumptively positive cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, have been confirmed in Missoula County. The two cases are a woman in her 30s, and a man in his 50s
No other information about the two patients has been released at this point. The tests, conducted by the DPHHS Public Health Laboratory, were confirmed Saturday evening. As is current standard, test results are considered presumptively positive and will be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The two Missoula County cases announced on Saturday bring the total number of cases of COVID-19 in Montana to six (see note below), after four were announced on Friday. There were four positive cases announced on Friday in the counties of Gallatin, Yellowstone, Silver Bow, and Broadwater.
- The Gallatin patient is a man in his 40s; recovering at home; acquired through international travel
- The Yellowstone patient is a woman in her 50s; recovering at home; rcquired through international travel
- The Silver Bow patient is a man in his 50s; recovering at home; acquired domestically in affected areas out of state
- The Broadwater patient is a man in his 50s who sought care in Lewis and Clark County; recovering at home; acquired domestically in affected areas out of state
The patients have been isolated in accordance with public health guidelines. People who came into close contact with them will be monitored for 14 days for fever and respiratory symptoms per CDC guidance. Public health officials are following up to learn more details about the two individual’s exposure risk, travel history, and to identify and communicate with anyone who may have been in close contact with the patients.
The City-County Health Department in Great Falls said on Saturday that all the COVID-19 tests that Cascade County sent to the state lab as of Friday, March 13, have come back negative. At this time, there are NO confirmed cases in Cascade County.
NOTE: In addition to the six confirmed cases actually IN Montana, there is a seventh Montanan confirmed to have COVID-19. That person, from Lake County, is a part time Montana resident with no documented exposures or close contacts in Montana, and was not tested in Montana. She was tested and diagnosed in Maryland, where she currently is residing.
Here is a partial list of events in Great Falls that have either been postponed or canceled:
- St. Patrick's Day parade scheduled for March 17 in downtown Great Falls canceled.
- "No More Violence Week" events have been postponed; click here for details.
- State FFA Convention scheduled in Great Falls for March 25-28 has been postponed.
- Volleyball tournament at Great Falls High School on Sunday has been canceled.
- Great Falls Community Concert: The Sons Of The Pioneers on Wednesday, March 18th, has been canceled.
- Several of the Western Art Week events have been postponed - click here for details.
- The annual "The Fire Within" ceremony/banquet scheduled for Thursday, March 26, has been postponed.
- Mighty Kids Expo has been postponed.
The list above is far from complete; if you have a scheduled event coming up in the next few weeks, you should get in touch with the event organizer to find out if it has been affected. We will post an updated article as we receive word of more canceled/postponed events.