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Catholic schools across Montana extend closure through May 4

Montana Catholic schools extend closure through May 4
Posted at 8:00 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 22:04:24-04

GREAT FALLS — All Montana Catholic schools will remain closed and utilize online instruction until at least May 4, three weeks later than public schools across the state, church leaders said Tuesday.

The plan will provide a roadmap for the next 41 days, according to BIshops Michael Warfel of the Great Falls-Billings Diocese and Austin Vetter of the Helena Diocese wrote in a letter to teachers, parents, students and staff.

The bishops said they are concerned about the spread of coronavirus and the impact of the disease it causes, COVID-19.

"We are also confident in the quality of instruction that our schools are providing but mindful that these times of uncertainty bring a sense of anxiety," they wrote.

On Tuesday afternoon, Governor Steve Bullock announced he was extending the closure of all Montana public schools to April 10, but said it could be longer if the virus continues to spread.

As of Tuesday evening (March 24), there are 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Montana, with 19 of them reported in Gallatin County.

The number is an increase of five from Tuesday morning. The new cases are: three in Gallatin County; one in Yellowstone County; one in Jefferson County.

Governor Steve Bullock hosted a news conference on Tuesday afternoon to give an update on Montana's efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus. Bullock said that his school closure order, which was set to expire Friday, will be extended to April 10. His order to close all non-essential businesses, including bars, casinos, and gyms, was also extended to April 10. Restaurants remain prohibited from allowing people to eat in their dining rooms, but can continue to provide take-out, curb-side, and delivery service (see here). Bullock also banned all gatherings outside of private residences of 10 people or more. Click here to read more.

Here is the total by county: Gallatin 19; Yellowstone 8; Missoula 6; Flathead 4; Cascade 3; Lewis & Clark 3; Butte-Silver Bow 3; Madison 1; Ravalli 1; Broadwater 1; Roosevelt 1; Jefferson 1.

There have not been any deaths in Montana attributed to COVID-19 at this point. 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.

A spokesman for the Montana COVID-19 Task Force says that positive test results for Montana residents who are currently outside the state will not be included in the totals reported on the website, and said: "The state recognizes that its reporting totals will differ from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) total as a result of these reporting processes." Experts still believe the true number of people infected with COVID-19 remains much higher than the number of confirmed cases.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the DPHHS public health lab in Helena has completed 2,001 tests for COVID-19.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States have soared above 45,000 as of Tuesday morning, as the number of deaths linked to the disease has reached 591.