National Guard to Screen Montana Visitors Starting Friday

The 73 Guardsmen will be deployed to 17 locations in 11 cities

By Associated Press

The National Guard will start screening people who arrive in Montana by airplane or train beginning Friday to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, while nearly 20,000 residents filed new unemployment claims last week.

The 73 Guardsmen will be deployed to 17 locations in 11 cities, said Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn, the adjutant general of the Montana National Guard and the leader of the governor’s COVID-19 task force.

Guard members will be at commercial and private airports in Billings, Butte, Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell and Missoula and at Amtrak train stations in Whitefish, Havre, Shelby and Wolf Point.

They will be taking the temperatures of arriving passengers, screening them for potential exposure history due to recent travel and notifying them of the state’s 14-day quarantine for non-work-related visits. Those with fevers will be referred to medical personnel.

Meanwhile, Montana reported 19,540 new applications for unemployment in the week ending March 28, up 27.3% from the 15,349 new applications a week earlier and an increase of 2,687% from the number of applications submitted on this week a year ago.

From March 14-28, the state processed nearly 35,000 claims for unemployment, the U.S. Employment and Training Administration reported. Montana reported its first positive tests for COVID-19 on March 13.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Montana’s health department reported 227 cases of COVID-19, 20 hospitalizations and five deaths as of Thursday morning. Just over a third of the cases, 85, were reported in Gallatin County, but no one was hospitalized there, the county health department said.

Three of the deaths were reported in Toole County, which had just six people test positive for COVID-19.

Last Friday, Marias Medical Center in Shelby confirmed that positive tests included employees of Marias Heritage Center, a 38-apartment retirement home and assisted living facility. The family of a woman who recently died said she had COVID-19 and was a resident of the center.

Officials have not identified any of the Toole County victims and the county health department cited privacy laws in declining to say how many of the cases were tied to the assisted living facility, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported.

In other coronavirus-related developments:

— Montana schools will receive at least $41.2 million from a $2.2 billion stimulus bill to help the country’s economy as schools and businesses have shut down. The money is distributed using a federal formula that takes into account the number of students from low-income families, The Billings Gazette reported. The Billings school district will receive an estimated $3.2 million while Missoula and Great Falls schools would receive $2.3 million.

The Butte, Helena and Kalispell school districts will receive an estimated $1.2 million said Ken Bailey, a finance expert with the Office of Public Instruction. Each district will receive at least $10,000 Bailey said. Schools are closed through at least April 10, but the shutdown could be extended.

— A Transportation Security Agent who screened passengers at Missoula International Airport has tested positive for COVID-19, the agency said. The staffer worked in the evenings, most recently on March 25.

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