HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock said he does not have a timeline for things to return to normal in Montana after the coronavirus outbreak.
Bullock answered questions from residents during a Monday afternoon telephone town hall, saying he will continue issuing his stay-at-home orders in two-week intervals based on advice from medical professionals.
Indicators such as a decline in cases over a two-week period or increased testing capability could lead to easing restrictions. Bullock said even if he lifts the stay-at-home order, he may discourage large groups from gathering to avoid additional virus outbreaks, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
“I don’t think that we’ll get to the point anytime in the immediate future where there’s just simply no more cases,” Bullock said. “It’s just how can we manage the fact that this nasty virus is still out there and make it least impactful for Montanans.”
The directives in place in Montana include school closures and some business closures, temperature screenings of passengers at airports, social distancing and a recommendation to wear masks in establishments like grocery stores, where social distancing is difficult.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Montana reported 399 cases on Tuesday morning and seven deaths.
Fifty people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and 24 remain in hospitals. Five new cases were confirmed Monday. None were in Gallatin County, which has just over one-third of the state’s cases.
In other Montana coronavirus-related developments
— Missoula County health officials say they will treat suspected cases of COVID-19 as cases because a shortage of testing supplies means they can’t always confirm them. After people test positive, their close contacts are identified. If any develop symptoms within 14 days, they will be considered unconfirmed cases, the Missoulian reported. The state is asking counties to track those cases, but it is not tallying them until it gets permission from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Stacey Anderson, an epidemiologist for the state health department.
— Six cases have been tied to a construction site in Big Sky, Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelly told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Suffolk Construction, which is building a $400 million ultra-luxury resort at the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, said two employees of a subcontractor tested positive on March 24. People who had close contact with them were asked to self-quarantine for 14 days and four more workers tested positive, said Joel Nickel, executive project director for Montage Big Sky. The six employees live in different counties and the cases are tallied in their home counties, including Gallatin, Cascade and Missoula. The state declined to identify the fourth county, saying the county is so small that revealing the information could make it easy for those who live there to learn the identity of the person who tested positive.
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