BILLINGS — Governor Steve Bullock declined Tuesday to pick a target date for easing directives aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Montana, adding that he expects the reopening of the state's economy to happen gradually in stages.
Bullock held a news conference in Helena and took questions from reporters by phone. He announced his office has completed a report on the demographics of COVID-19 cases in Montana and fielded questions on the duration of his closure orders, testing capacity in Montana, and other topics related to the outbreak. Scroll down to watch video of the news conference.
Bullock's order closing all schools statewide and his stay-at-home order, which closes certain businesses deemed nonessential, are scheduled to run through April 24. Last week, Bullock his first extension of his original two-week order, and he has indicated that he intends to evaulate these orders in two-week increments for additional extensions.
“Picking a date to say right now when everything will expire does not seem sensible when we take into account the health of Montanans and the economy,” Bullock said.
In response to a letter from Montana legislative leaders, Bullock said his orders are constitutional and authorized through powers granted by the Montana Legislature.
As of Tuesday morning (April 14), there have been a total of 399 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Montana, an increase of five since Monday. There have been seven deaths to date, and increase of one since Sunday (source/map). There have been three deaths in Toole County, and one each in Lincoln County, Madison County, Missoula County, and Flathead County.
There have now been 50 hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Montana; 24 of those are considered "active hospitalizations." There have been a total of 197 recovered patients. The DPHHS public health lab in Helena has completed 9,234 tests for COVID-19, including 136 tests since Monday's update.
CLOSURES & RESTRICTIONS: Last Tuesday, Bullock ordered the extension of the "stay at home" order designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Montana. The original order was issued on March 26. The extension will now last through Friday, April 24.
Bullock also said that public K-12 schools across the state will remain closed through April 24. Other directives previously issued by the governor have also been extended through April 24, including the closure of bars, casinos, and other non-essential businesses; the closure of dine-in service for restaurants; the temporary suspension of evictions and foreclosures; and prohibiting for now shutting off of utilities for nonpayment. RELATED: What businesses are considered "essential?
Bullock also recommended that Montanans wear cloth face masks when they're out in public, such as in grocery stores and pharmacies. He also extended the order requiring incoming travelers to Montana to enter into a 14-day self-quarantine.
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