3/24/2020 BREAKING NEWS: GOVERNOR EXTENDS SCHOOL CLOSURES TO APRIL 10
HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock today extended statewide school closures to April 10th. He also extended and expanded an earlier order closing bars, restaurants to serve on-premise food and drink, casinos, theaters and included a new round of businesses, including tattoo parlors and salons. The Governor’s directive also make social distancing mandatory and limits gatherings to 10 people or less.
Governor Bullock signed a second order today giving local governments more flexibility in staffing offices and deciding whether to close or curtail hours during the crisis.
In Missoula, the Health Officer, Ellen Leahy, extended her closure order affecting bars, restaurants, casinos and theaters to April 15th and added the salons, tattoo parlors and other businesses named in Bullock’s extended order to her extended order. Schools in Missoula will be closed until April 10th.
Before announcing the extended and expanded closures, Bullock said the state is bracing for an expected surge is coronavirus cases that will require hospitalization.
3/24/2020 MONTANA NOW AT 46 CASES OF COVID-19 STATEWIDE
MISSOULA — Missoula has two new confirmed cases of coronavirus, a man and woman, both in their 60’s. They are the latest in a number of cases this week that tripled the total number of cases since last week-end.
UPDATE: FOUR NEW CASES OF COVID-19 IN MONTANA, THREE FROM YELLOWSTONE COUNTY. MONTANA NOW HAS 15 CASES.
MONTANA – Late Thursday, the Governor’s office said that four new cases of coronavirus had been detected at the state health lab. Three of the four cases were from Yellowstone County – two males and a female, all in their 20’s. The fourth patient is a woman in her 70’s from Roosevelt County who likely contracted COVID-19 while traveling internationally. DPHHS and the local county health departments are immediately 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. All patients will be isolated or quarantined pursuant to public health guidelines. Those who came into close contact with the individuals will be monitored for 14 days for fever and respiratory symptoms per CDC guidance.
BREAKING NEWS: GOVERNOR ISSUES TRAVEL ADVISORY
MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock today issued a travel advisory for Montanans who have traveled internationally to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning to Montana. Bullock called on travelers to ‘do the right thing’ and contact their local health department when they return from any overvseas travel. The State Department also advised US citizens traveling abroad that unless they are staying for an indefinite period, they should return home now and the CDC has recommended that cruise travel be deferred at this time.
UPDATE: GOVERNOR OUTLINES SCHOOL PLANS NEEDED
HELENA – Montana public schools have just over a week to come up with a contingency plan that will allow them to retain state funding if they are not able to re-open schools because of the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Steve Bullock outlined the situation facing school districts today from Helena. Districts will continue to receive all state payments during the initial two-week closure as budgeted and appropriated by the Montana legislature. And after March 27th, they will not be required to reschedule in-person pupil-instruction time lost because of the closure if the board of trustees for the district approves the district’s plan/report that it has made up the lost pupil-instruction time through remote learning, provided for meals for students, provided for services to students with disabilities, and provided other services customarily provided to students in school. Districts whose plans/reports are approved will continue to receive all state funding.
UPDATE: MISSOULA COUNTY JAIL TO LIMIT INMATES IN ORDER TO PREVENT CORONAVIRUS EXPOSURE
MISSOULA –In an effort to minimize risk of the coronavirus being introduced into the Missoula County Detention Center, Missoula County Commissioners adopted an emergency resolution today that will not accept individuals into the detention center who have been charged, but not convicted of non-violent misdemeanor offenses under state laws and/or city ordinances. Effective immediately, the Missoula County Detention Center will not accept individuals into the detention center who have been arrested based on a warrant for failure to appear for court dates related to non-violent misdemeanor offenses under state laws and/or city ordinances.
BREAKING NEWS: MSLA CITY COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER ORDERS GYMS, THEATERS CLOSED THROUGH MARCH 24TH.
MISSOULA — Ellen Leahy expanded her order closing bars and restaurants to include gyms and theaters Wednesday afternoon. The order will go into effect at 11:59pm Wednesday, March 18 and remain in effect at least until 11:59pm on March 24th. The order exempts physical therapists who schedule one-on-one appointments.
UPDATE: MISSOULA COUNTY CLERK AND RECORDERS OFFICE CLOSED IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19
MISSOULA – The Missoula County Clerk & Treasurer’s Office closed its office to the public at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, March 18th. While in-person customers will not be seen, motor vehicle, property tax, recording, and vital records services are available online and by phone. The Clerk & Treasurer will re-examine this closure on Monday, March 23rd. In the meantime, they direct visitors to their website for details on accessing services online (https://www.missoulacounty.us/government/administration/clerk-treasurer/-fsiteid-1).
UPDATE: SOUTHGATE MALL, MISSOULA ANNOUNCES REDUCED HOURS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19
MISSOULA – Southgate Mall management announced this morning that stores and shops at the mall would open later and close earlier as a precaution during the COVID-19 crisis. Until further notice, Southgate Mall will open daily at 11 a.m. (Sundays 12 p.m.) and close daily at 7 p.m. (Sundays at 6 p.m.). Mall management also said that certain retailers have chosen to modify operating hours or close temporarily, but they are giving all tenants the opportunity to do what is right for their business at this time.
BREAKING NEWS: TWO NEW CASES OF COVID-19 IN MONTANA
HELENA – Governor Steve Bullock announced Wednesday that two new cases of COVID-19 have been detected by the DPHHS Public Health Laboratory. Both are young men in their 20’s from Gallatin County. The CDC is no longer requiring the state to label its positive tests as “presumptive” or to send them to the CDC for confirmation.
BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD TO COVER CO-PAYS FOR TESTING
Helena – BCBS, the state’s largest private insurer, today announced that the company would not charge co-pays or deductibles for COVID-19 testing for its customers. The company also said it would temporarily lift restrictions on early re-fills of prescription drugs.
BREAKING NEWS: STATE ANNOUNCES HELP FOR WORKERS, BUSINESSES AND THE UNINSURED
Helena – One day after bar and restaurant closures caused many businesses and workers to panic about their futures in the COVID-19 crisis, Governor Steve announced several measures to help laid off workers, small businesses and the uninsured.
Bullock applied for, and got, permission to give workers laid off because of closures and reductions in force, or who had to take time off to care for a family member with COVID-19 unemployment benefits without the usual one week delay. The UI benefits will not be charged to their employers and if they plan to return to work for the same employer, they will not have to apply for other jobs weekly.
The Governor also said uninsured Montanans would be covered for the cost of testing and treatment, including a referral. The program will roll out March 23rd. To access the new emergency assistance, Montanans should call 406-444-7605 or email [email protected]
Emergency low interest loans of up to $2 million dollars will be available to small businesses affected by the pandemic and anyone whose Montana driver’s license expires this month or in April or May will have an extra 90 days to get them renewed. The Governor announced the package of benefits today in a press call with reporters across the state.
UPDATE: MISSOULA CITY COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT ORDERS CLOSURES
MISSOULA — The health officer today issued an order closing bars and limiting restaurant service starting at 8 am on Tuesday, March 17 through 8 am on Tuesday, March 24. The order comes on the heels of CDC guidance to restrict events to fewer than 50 people, and the growing evidence supporting social distancing, or the avoidance of large groups of people and close contact. Other jurisdictions in Montana are doing the same, including Butte, as well as elected officials across the country.
While the order prohibits the operation of bars and dine-in food service, the order does allow for limited operation via drive-thru, take out, and delivery service. It also doesn’t include food services that are a sole source of food for a population such as nursing homes, UM dining, or hospitals. Food services that operate in a limited capacity need to follow the food service regulations and additional guidance from the health department.
“We appreciate the cooperation of the businesses affected,” said Leahy. “One of the great things about Missoula is the community-minded approach of the business community. Working together, we can minimize the impact on Missoula’s health and the economy.”
BREAKING: 1ST CORONAVIRUS VACCINE TESTED IN SEATTLE, ACCORDING TO AP
SEATTLE (AP) — U.S. researchers gave the first shot to the first person in a test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine Monday — leading off a worldwide hunt for protection even as the pandemic surges.
With a careful jab in a healthy volunteer’s arm, scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle begin an anxiously awaited first-stage study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed in record time after the new virus exploded from China and fanned across the globe.
“We’re team coronavirus now,” Kaiser Permanente study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson said on the eve of the experiment. “Everyone wants to do what they can in this emergency.”
MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock today announced that eight Montana Army National Guard Soldiers were activated for State Activity Duty yesterday to assist in the arrival and transport of eight Montanans returning from quarantine at Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia. The eight Montanans were quarantined at the Dobbins AFB due to being in proximity of an individual with COVID-19 on a cruise ship.
The eight Montanans returned to Montana and were being transported to their homes as of yesterday evening by Montana National Guard Soldiers. All eight are asymptomatic but were tested by the Department of Public Health and Human Services upon arrival at the Montana National Guard’s C-12 hangar. The previously quarantined individuals were flown on a U.S. Government contracted aircraft to Helena, arriving yesterday afternoon.
Three different state vehicles driven by Soldiers transported the Montanans to Wise River, Helena and Great Falls, and lastly to Big Timber and Billings.
MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock on Sunday night announced that he is ordering all K-12 public schools in the state to close through March 26th. The two-week closure comes after six cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in the state Friday and Saturday, including two people in Missoula. Bullock also urged groups and businesses to limit gatherings to less than 50 people. In response a number of concerts, meetings and large group gathering were cancelled or postponed. The state has staffed up a command center to coordinate statewide response at Fort Harrison in Helena and created an informational website at covid19.mt.gov.
Missoula County’s Coronavirus task force also held a press call on Sunday to give additional information about the pair of presumptively positive results for COVID-19 that were announced. Health Department director, Ellen Leahy and Incident Commander Cindy Farr said that the man and woman from Missoula were in isolation and recovering at home and being interviewed by staff to determine the contacts they had prior to being diagnosed. Those contacts will be contacted by the Health Department and assessed. If they are not showing symptoms they will be asked to self-quarantine, take their temperature twice and day and report to the Health Department. If they do develop symptoms, including dry cough, fever and difficulty breathing, they will tested and appropriate follow up will be conducted. Missoula’s City County Health Department has an information hotline at 406-258-INFO (4636) and a COVID-19 website at missoula.co/cvirus
FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 2020
A group of Missoula city and county officials, and education leaders held a press conference and Q and A Friday on the COVID-19 situation locally. The key takeaways:
ELLEN LEAHY/DIRECTOR OF MCCHD: Until now health officials have been hampered in their efforts to gauge Montana’s level of contagion by the lack of available tests, but all indications are that Montana will not escape this pandemic. Missoula County has a Pandemic Quarantine and Isolation policy and the authority to enforce it under state and federal law, but prefers at this time to encourage residents and organizations to voluntarily implement social distancing strategies to limit the spread, protect high risk populations and preserve health care resources. Anyone who suspects they have symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their local health provider, who will screen them for other illnesses, including influenza, which is common right now, before determining if they should be referred to the Health Department for testing for coronavirus. The City-County Health Department has added a Coronavirus Information page to their website.
In addition, on Thursday Leahy and six other health directors from the state’s largest cities issued a guidance, along with the Montana DPHHS that suggests:
– all sporting events/tournaments/large events should be cancelled for the next few months
– any school, anywhere in the state that has a staff member or student who tests positive for COVID-19 should close immediately for at least a short time in order to clean and disinfect the school and to give health officials time to assess the danger of a spreading contagion.
CINDY FARR/MCCHD-COVID-19 INCIDENT COMMANDER:
Travelers returning from COVID-19 hot spots identified by the CDC should self-quarantine for 14 days, check for symptoms and contact their local healthcare provider for testing, if symptoms appear. If tested positive for Corona virus, patients should self-isolate for 2 – 6 weeks, depending on severity of disease. Anyone 65+, or persons under 65 with chronic health issues should self-isolate. Under 65 and non-high risk should follow all CDC recommendations for limiting the spread of this contagion. Testing is more available now, but people should call their health care provider first to be screened for other possible diseases.
ROSS MILLER/CHAIR, MCCHD: Missoula County has a Quarantine and Isolation policy for pandemics that is based on state and federal law and was most recently updated in January of 2019. It authorizes health officials to implement mandatory isolation and quarantine, if needed. As chair, he has signed the policy that outlines how and when county health officials will react to protect community health. The health department has a live link to the text of the policy on its website.
JOHN ENGEN/MISSOULA MAYOR: The city of Missoula is open for business and will continue to provide services, including health and safety functions. But services may be provided differently to limit person-to-person contact where possible, (ie no in-person drop off of payments to city clerk/finance offices. Residents can mail-in or drop in boxes at City Hall for delivery.) Non-essential visits by city employees to homes/business will be eliminated for the time being. The City is doing extensive planning and will work to provide city services while protecting high risk employees. Mayor Engen is encouraging all Missoula families to make their own plan.
JOSH SLOTNICK/BCC CHAIR: The County’s approach is very similar to the City’s and is being coordinated with local, state and federal agencies. Commissioner Slotnick provided one of few light-hearted moments of the day and what may become the slogan for these efforts: “We can do this is we work together, apart.”
BRYAN VON LOSSBERG/MCC CHAIR: Von Lossberg noted that his own 2nd grader has been carefully and thoroughly trained in hand-washing technique by MCPS staff and applauded local organizations who have taken responsible actions voluntarily to limit the spread of COVID-19. The council board chair also encouraged Missoulians to support local non-profits helping the most vulnerable citizens and to reach out to neighbors.
ROB WATSON/SUPT MCPS: Missoula County schools are closed for spring break until 3/23/20, but teachers and administrators are preparing for possible extended closures and schools are undergoing additional intensive cleaning in the interim and will continue with additional measures when schools re-open. When schools re-open on 3/23, outside community members will be excluded from schools until further notice. The district is also suspending any non-essential activities in the schools, including sports, that bring large numbers of students together.
SETH BODNAR/UM PRESIDENT: Second semester classes will be taught remotely after spring break, but campus will remain open for student housing and food services. Large group events are cancelled and appropriate social distancing will be implemented to protect employees and students on campus. Bodnar’s office announced their response to the coronavirus situation Thursday and details are online.
Bodner also noted that he has been extensively coached on his hand-washing technique by a group of MCPS-trained hand-washing experts – his children.