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Stay-at-home order and school closures in Montana likely to be extended

Posted at 6:42 AM, Apr 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-04 10:41:21-04

HELENA — Governor Steve Bullock said Friday that closures and restrictions in Montana caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to remain in place for at least several more weeks.

“I said to someone, ‘I think, like most Montanans, I’m over this; I wish the virus was, and the virus isn’t over this,’” he said.

Currently, Bullock’s orders closing public schools and requiring people to stay home except for essential activities are both set to expire April 10. He said leaders have not officially decided to extend them yet, but that residents should expect they will be extended sometime next week, likely through April 24.

As of Friday evening, there have been a total of 262 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Montana. There have now been 24 hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Montana. As of Friday evening, the DPHHS public health lab in Helena has completed 6,057 tests for COVID-19.

Bullock said Friday that the state does not have an updated number on how many Montanans have recovered from COVID-19. Earlier this week, he reported 32 known to have recovered. He said leaders are looking at the possibility of updating that data more frequently, but that there have been some challenges in aligning the data from the state and various health departments.

“The greater point is that there are people recovering, and people going back to their daily lives,” said Bullock. “Even during the times of challenge, we have to recognize those moments of optimism.”

Bullock said he plans to reassess the orders two weeks at a time, and that he does not want to extend them several months as other states have done. However, he said it remains as important as ever for Montanans to stay home when possible.

“I can’t stress enough that every step that Montanans take now and in the following weeks will make all the difference in managing through this health crisis,” he said.

He said about 10% of the people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Montana work in the healthcare sector. “Staying at home also means keeping our heroes on the front lines as healthy as possible,” he said.

Bullock also announced several steps aimed at making sure families in need have access to food at this time. “No Montanan should have to worry about putting food on the table for themselves and their families, especially during a global pandemic,” he said.

The state plans to double its supply of food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will be distributed at food banks, food pantries and other emergency providers. They will reduce some of the restrictions on Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – or WIC – allowing more options for food if approved products are unavailable.

Bullock said they will also use flexibility, under the federal CARES Act passed last week, to provide additional benefits for those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Participants will be able to continue receiving assistance for 12 months, and a three-month limit for some recipients will be waived. Recipients will not have to reapply during the emergency.

Bullock also requested that the USDA provide the maximum food assistance in April and May for families eligible for SNAP. He said the changes to SNAP will help more than 100,000 Montanans.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines released a statement Friday saying that Montana has been approved for SNAP emergency allocations, meaning recipients will be eligible for maximum benefits. “This is about delivering relief for families struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, and I will continue working to ensure that Montanans have access to the resources they need during this crisis,” Daines said.

# OF CASES BY COUNTY: Gallatin County - 101 Cases; Yellowstone County - 38 Cases; Flathead County - 20 Cases; Missoula County - 17 Cases; Lewis and Clark County - 13 Cases; Toole County - 12 Cases; Silver Bow County - 11 Cases; Cascade County - 11 Cases; Madison County - 6 Cases; Park County - 6 Cases; Lincoln County - 6 Cases; Broadwater County - 4 Cases; Lake County - 4 Cases; Deer Lodge County - 3 Cases; Jefferson County - 2 Cases; Carbon County - 1 Cases; Ravalli County - 1 Cases; Musselshell County - 1 Cases; Meagher County - 1 Cases; Roosevelt County - 1 Cases; Hill County - 1 Cases; Liberty County - 1 Cases; Glacier County - 1 Cases

TOOLE COUNTY: According to the official state COVID-19 website, there are now 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Toole County, an increase of six from yesterday. In addition, three of Montana's five COVID-19 deaths have been Toole County residents. The estimated population is about 4,900 for Toole County; for Shelby, the county seat, the number is about 3,200. Click here for details on the Toole County situation.

CASCADE COUNTY: As of Friday evening, there are 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases. They are 2 women between the ages of 20-29; 1 man between 30-39; 1 man between 40-49; 3 women and 2 men between 50-59; 1 man between 60-69; and 1 man between 80-89. KRTV has confirmed that at least one of those patients was hospitalized in Great Falls. The City-County Health Department in Great Falls continues working with the patients to determine who they may have been in direct contact with, and communicating with anyone who may have been exposed. The CCHD says that due to federal privacy laws (HIPAA), they will not release any other information about the patients, including where they live.

US/WORLD: According to Johns Hopkins University, the worldwide numbers as of Friday morning are: 1,094,068 confirmed COVID-19 cases; 58,787 deaths; and 225,519 patients have recovered. The U.S. numbers as of Friday morning are: 273,880 confirmed cases; 7,077 deaths; and 9,521 patients have recovered.