News & Features

Covering the Coronavirus Outbreak

A roundup of stories and information related to the impacts of coronavirus in Montana and the Flathead Valley

Editor’s Note: As the scope of the coronavirus outbreak comes into focus and the disruptions to our daily lives mount, the Flathead Beacon remains dedicated to gathering the most up-to-date information possible. With rapid developments occurring globally, nationally and at the state and county levels, we can expect additional impacts to our health care and education systems, travel, commerce, and hospitality, as well as other social consequences that remain to be seen. In an effort to help readers easily find the information they need, the Beacon is curating its coverage of the pandemic here. If you don’t find what you’re looking for here or you have news to share, please contact us at news@flatheadbeacon.com or call our office at (406) 257-9220. Additional Montana-related coronavirus information from the state health department can be found here.

The Beacon is also producing a nightly podcast recapping the latest developments related to COVID-19. The most recent episode, recorded on Friday, March 27, is available here. You can subscribe to the podcast by searching “Flathead Beacon” on Apple, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

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A cyclist along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Courtesy photo

Glacier National Park Closes to Visitors Until Further Notice

Announcement comes as Montana ramps up measures to slow spread of COVID-19

Glacier National Park is closed to visitors until further notice as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Montana, which a day earlier recorded the first death of a patient stricken with coronavirus.

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Visitors relax at Tally Lake. Beacon File Photo

Flathead, Kootenai National Forests Close Campsites and Rental Cabins

Closures come amid escalating public health concerns surrounding COVID-19 outbreak

Developed campgrounds, restroom facilities, rental cabins and lookouts have been closed on both Flathead and Kootenai National Forest land as U.S. Forest Service officials respond to escalating public health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Gov. Steve Bullock. Beacon File Photo

Bullock Issues Stay at Home Directive to Slow the Spread of COVID-19

Directive asks Montanans to stay home to maximum extent possible except for essential activities

Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday issued a mandatory stay-at-home order for all residents of Montana while temporarily closing non-essential businesses, marking his most dramatic action to date in the ongoing effort slow the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

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The Center for Asbestos Related Disease in Libby on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Lincoln, Glacier Counties Report First Positive Cases of COVID-19

Health officials say COVID-19 is particularly concerning for those in Libby with asbestosis

Coronavirus is continuing to spread across the state and into more rural communities.

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Data from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Graphic by Eric Dietrich of the Montana Free Press.

Unemployment Filings, Social Service Demand Skyrocketing

Workers losing jobs and income as businesses close or alter operations, while facing new challenges of caring for kids while balancing work

In the wake of sweeping measures to combat COVID-19, businesses have shuttered or altered operations across the state, leaving thousands of employees without jobs and countless others with reduced income while straining social services with increased demand.

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Restaurants, bars and other eateries around Whitefish have either closed or have switched to take-out or delivery only as a measure to mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus, as seen on March 17, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Hospitality Industry Reels in Wake of Emergency Public Health Closures

Even as Flathead Valley restaurants, bars and hotels offer limited services, hundreds of workers have been displaced by coronavirus outbreak

As the ramifications of the novel coronavirus unfold in the U.S. and around the globe, emergency public health closures across Montana have dealt an immediate blow to local economies, leaving thousands of workers suddenly and unexpectedly displaced.

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The Great Northern Bar and Grill is empty on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2020. Restaurants, bars and other eateries around Whitefish have either closed or have switched to take-out or delivery only as a measure to mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus, as seen on March 17, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

State Extends School, Restaurant Closures Until April 10

As of Tuesday, there were 46 positive COVID-19 cases in the state of Montana, including four in Flathead County

In an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Steve Bullock on Tuesday extended the statewide closure of schools, bars, restaurants and other businesses in Montana until April 10.

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Montana West Economic Development of Kalispell on Dec. 18, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Economic Development Groups Offer Business Tips Amid Pandemic

As businesses wait for a federal stimulus package, economic development agencies recommend deferring payments, reducing costs

As officials continue to impose strict orders on social distancing in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, Montana’s businesses are shutting their doors and curtailing operations.

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Students trickled in and out of Glacier High School on March 18, 2020 to gather their things in anticipation of extended school closures. Montana Governor Steve Bullock ordered all schools close on March 15 in response of the spread of novel coronavirus across the state. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Local Schools Preparing for Next Round of Closures

Teachers, administrators planning for remote learning at all grade levels if and when governor extends statewide school closures into April and beyond

Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Mark Flatau paid a visit to Flathead High School last week, checking in on one of the largest buildings that the sprawling district operates.

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Kalispell Regional Healthcare braces for the arrival of novel coronavirus as seen on the afternoon of March 18, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Two New Cases of Coronavirus Reported in Flathead County

Montana DPHHS announced a woman in her 30s and a man in his 50s both tested positive Monday

Two more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Flathead County on Monday, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

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A guard checks the rooms at the Flathead County jail. Beacon File Photo

Local Law Enforcement Alters Operations During Pandemic

Street officers were limiting their physical interactions with other people and jail visits have been temporarily suspended

Local law enforcement agencies are changing how they serve the public during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Images courtesy of Kalispell Regional Healthcare.

Mental Health During a Public-Health Crisis

Practitioners are offering telehealth and suggest structured activities, getting outside to cope with COVID-19 anxiety

As social distancing becomes the new norm and coronavirus-caused closures continue to rattle Montana, mental health professionals are responding to an uptick in anxiety and fear of what the uncertain future holds.

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Kalispell Regional Healthcare braces for the arrival of novel coronavirus as seen on the afternoon of March 18, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Officials Describe Efforts to Curb Exposure After Flathead Confirms First COVID-19 Cases

KRH employee who tested positive for coronavirus potentially exposed 14 patients and nine employees; Illinois man had “limited contact”

A Kalispell Regional Healthcare employee who tested positive for COVID-19 after traveling out of state potentially exposed 14 patients and nine employees before he was instructed to quarantine at home, officials said Saturday, while an Illinois man who tested positive for the disease after visiting Montana had limited contact with the public and is resting in isolation.

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This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Image by Alissa Eckert, MS and Dan Higgins, MAMS

Two Men Diagnosed With Coronavirus in Flathead County

First cases of coronavirus detected in Northwest Montana; both individuals recently engaged in domestic, out-of-state travel

Two men have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in Flathead County, according to a press release from the Flathead City-County Health Department.

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Restaurants, bars and other eateries around Whitefish have either closed or have switched to take-out or delivery only as a measure to mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus, as seen on March 17, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Flathead Board of Health Orders Eateries, Gyms to Close Friday

Restaurants will be able to continue to provide take-out, delivery services

The Flathead City-County Health Board has voted to close all bars, restaurants and fitness centers to the public for at least 10 days in an effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

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Kelly Hamilton loads bags of food into a car at the Flathead Food Bank on March 19, 2020. The Flathead Food Bank provides bags of food via curbside pickup only to reduce chances of transmission of novel coronavirus. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Food Bank Inventories Dwindling Rapidly Due to Increased Demand, Supplier Shortages

Local food bank directors are asking for community financial support to make sure food doesn’t run out for those in need

Flathead Valley food banks are placing emergency orders and asking the public to make financial contributions as food inventories dwindle rapidly due to both skyrocketing demand and people clearing shelves at grocery stores, which diminishes critical supply sources for the nonprofits.

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A sign in the front window of Brendan House nursing home at Kalispell Regional Healthcare on March 13, 2020. As of March 13, Brendan House is restricting all visitors as a precautionary measure to protect residents from novel coronavirus. Hunter D’Antouno | Flathead Beacon

New Coronavirus Cases Reported in Missoula, Gallatin Counties

There have been 12 confirmed cases in Montana since last week

On Wednesday evening, Bullock announced that a man in his 50s in Missoula County and a man in his 60s in Gallatin County both tested positive for the virus, also known as COVID-19.

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Kalispell Regional Medical Center on April 15, 2019. Beacon File Photo

Local Health Care Facilities Bracing for Epidemic

Proactive community measures could help health care professionals avoid systemic overwhelm in the Flathead Valley

Even though Flathead County on Wednesday still hadn’t reported a single case of COVID-19, health care professionals are already feeling the full strain of the coronavirus pandemic as facilities grapple with limited testing capabilities and take stock of critical resources that could be exhausted with an influx of sickened patients.

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Images courtesy of Kalispell Regional Healthcare.

KRH Encourages Public to Visit COVID-19 Informational Page

Detailed source is updated regularly with health care resources, advice

Subjects include numerous aspects of the virus and local preparedness efforts, with easy-to-read infographics and information.

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The Flathead City-County Health Department. Beacon File Photo

Flathead County Commission Declares State of Emergency Over Coronavirus

Declaration will allow health department to access additional funding during outbreak

The Flathead County Commission voted unanimously to declare a state of emergency on Wednesday in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Glacier Modifies Operations Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Apgar Visitor Center will be closed until further notice starting March 21

Glacier National Park is modifying its operations in an effort to keep employees, visitors and volunteers safe.

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This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Image by Alissa Eckert, MS and Dan Higgins, MAMS

Montana Confirms Two More Coronavirus Cases in Gallatin County

At least 10 people have tested positive in the state

Gov. Steve Bullock confirmed two additional positive coronavirus cases in Gallatin County on Wednesday morning, bringing the total to 10.

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U.S., Canada to Close Border to Nonessential Travel

Truck drivers and Canadian snowbirds, who live in the U.S. for part of the year and are returning to Canada, are among those expected to get an exemption

The U.S. and Canada have agreed to temporarily close their shared border to nonessential travel, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday as the two nations work to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Montana Gov. Steve Bullock addresses a crowd of reporters and students at Helena High School, his alma mater, after announcing his presidential run on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. He is the 22nd Democrat to enter the 2020 presidential race. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

State Extends Unemployment Benefits to Workers Impacted by Coronavirus

People without health insurance will still be able to get tested for coronavirus

Montanans furloughed or laid off due to the coronavirus outbreak will be able to apply for unemployment benefits, Gov. Steve Bullock announced Tuesday.

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Rankin Elementary School. Beacon File Photo

School Districts, Food Banks Adjust to Ensure Access to Food

Food banks switching to outside distributions among other changes; schools serving meals to kids at designated locations

School districts and food banks are making adjustments in order to ensure that students and customers are able to continue accessing food while adhering to social-distancing protocol.

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Blacktail Mountain Ski Area outside of Lakeside on Jan. 8, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Blacktail Mountain Ski Area Closes Amid Outbreak

Whitefish Mountain closed for season on Sunday

Blacktail Mountain Ski Area in Lakeside announced Tuesday that it was temporarily suspending all operations amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

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Shoppers check-out at Safeway in Whitefish on March 15, 2020. Flathead Valley residents stockpiled food, face-masks, cleaning supplies and paper products over the weekend as covid-19 spreads across the United States. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Flathead County Urges Businesses to Alter Services During Coronavirus Outbreak

As of Tuesday there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Flathead County

Although there have been no known local cases of COVID-19 in Northwest Montana, Flathead County officials are urging businesses “to begin immediate preparations for alternative ways of performing day-to-day activities.”

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Nurses work in the intermediate care unit at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Beacon File Photo

KRH Offers Free Virtual Appointments Until March 24

Hospital launches online service to address pandemic public health emergency

In light of the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Kalispell Regional Healthcare (KRH) is offering no-cost virtual health visits to provide support for those experiencing flu-like symptoms including fevers, dry coughs and fatigue.

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The Flathead City-County Health Department. Beacon File Photo

Flathead Health Officer to Ask Commissioners for Emergency Declaration

Health officer said county has not considered forcing bars, restaurants to close

The public health official leading the local response to the coronavirus pandemic will ask the Flathead County Commission to declare a state of emergency this week.

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Bullock on COVID-19 Outbreak: ‘The Time to Act is Now’

As of Monday afternoon, there were still only six presumptive cases of coronavirus in the state

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.

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Allyssa Cadwalader swings at a pitch during the crosstown softball game on April 16, 2019. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Spring Sports, Activities Suspended Indefinitely

MHSA will “reevaluate” season on April 13; spring sports practices began on March 9

The Montana High School Association announced on March 16 that it’s suspending all spring sports and activities through at least April 13 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Glacier High School. Beacon File Photo

Bullock Directs Schools to Close for Two Weeks as Coronavirus Spreads

State also recommends that all gatherings with more than 50 people be canceled

Schools across Montana will be closed for two weeks, from March 16-27, in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, the virus that has spread around the globe and dramatically altered American life in just a matter of days.

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Whitefish Mountain Resort announced closure of the ski hill in light of coronavirus on March 15, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Whitefish Mountain Resort to Close for Season

As COVID-19 virus spreads, officials decide to close ski resort three weeks early

Whitefish Mountain Resort has closed for the season as fear of the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the nation.

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The Browning team huddles before the start of the game against Libby during the Northwest Class A district tournament in Whitefish on Feb. 15, 2019. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

State Basketball Tournaments Canceled After Coronavirus Cases Confirmed

Tournaments at four sites held games on Thursday and Friday; finalists will be declared co-champions

The Montana High School Association canceled the remainder of the Class AA, A, B and C state basketball tournaments late Friday night, hours after the state confirmed its first four cases of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

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Bredan House nursing home at Kalispell Regional Healthcare on March 13, 2020. As of March 13, Brendan House is restricting all visitors as a precautionary measure to protect residents from novel coronavirus. Hunter D’Antuno | Flathead Beacon

Assisted-Living, Nursing Facilities Implement Coronavirus Measures

KRH also announces expansion of visitor restrictions at KRMC, The HealthCenter and North Valley Hospital

Senior-care institutions in the Flathead Valley have implemented measures — including restricting visitors — to protect elderly residents amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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A sign in the front window of Brendan House nursing home at Kalispell Regional Healthcare on March 13, 2020. As of March 13, Brendan House is restricting all visitors as a precautionary measure to protect residents from novel coronavirus. Hunter D’Antuno | Flathead Beacon

Two People Test Positive for Coronavirus in Missoula County

At least six people in Montana have tested positive for coronavirus in the last 24 hours

Two people in Missoula County were believed to have tested positive for coronavirus, Gov. Steve Bullock announced on March 14.

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Gov. Steve Bullock. Beacon File Photo

Montana Confirms First Corona Cases

Gov. Bullock on March 13 confirmed four presumptively positive coronavirus cases in Gallatin, Yellowstone, Silver Bow, and Lewis and Clark counties

Gov. Steve Bullock on March 13 said Montana’s public health department has confirmed the first positive cases of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, documented so far in the state.

According to a press release from Bullock’s office, there were four presumptively positive cases in the counties of Gallatin, Yellowstone, Silver Bow, and Lewis and Clark.

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