Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Monday that while the statewide measures to slow the spread of coronavirus may seem extreme, he believes they are necessary to save lives from the infection that has rapidly spread around the globe.
“Montanans have always pulled together in times of crisis,” Bullock said during a teleconference with members of the media. “Sacrifices will have to be made, but the time to act is now.”
The press conference came less than 24 hours after Bullock announced that all schools in the state would be closed for two weeks; that visitation in nursing homes would be mostly suspended; and a recommendation that people not gather in large groups.
As of Monday, more than 200 people had been tested for the COVID-19 virus in the state and another 109 will be tested before the day is over. So far, only six people in Montana have tested positive for the virus and those people are currently in isolation.
While some communities have shuttered bars and restaurants across the state and around the country, Bullock said that as of Monday he would not be ordering those businesses to close but urged people to practice social distancing. Some bars and restaurants locally in the Flathead Valley have closed or gone to a take-out only service.
In a press release announcing the school closure, Bullock said K-12 institutions would continue to receive funding during the shutdown and urged districts to provide free meals to students who need them. On Monday, he said he was hopeful that some schools would be able to provide online instruction in the coming weeks. When asked whether schools would reopen in two weeks, Bullock and state officials— including Adjutant General Matthew Quinn, State Medical Officer Greg Holzman and Public Health and Safety Division Administrator Todd Harwell — said it would depend on developments related to the pandemic nationally and globally.
“We don’t know,” he said. “It’s a dynamic situation.”