HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock issued directives Tuesday to allow an increase the the number of medical providers in Montana during the COVID-19 emergency and to expand insurance coverage for telehealth visits for routine medical care.
One directive makes it easier for retired health care professionals and licensed out-of-state providers to practice. The other requires health insurers to provide the same coverage for telehealth services as they do for in-person routine care visits to allow for continued social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The directives are in effect until the end of Montana’s state of emergency.
The Department of Public Health and Human Services said four new COVID-19 cases were discovered in testing done on Monday, bringing the state’s cases to 437. There have been 12 deaths and 14 people remained hospitalized.
Gallatin County, which has a third of the state’s cases, has just three active cases, including two that were confirmed Monday, the health department said.
Lewis and Clark County reported Tuesday it hasn’t had a positive COVID-19 test since April 9. Only one county resident was hospitalized with the respiratory virus, Gayle Shirley, spokeswoman for Lewis and Clark Public Health, told the Independent Record.
Nearly half of Montana’s 56 counties haven’t reported any cases.
Bullock has said he plans to lift some of the restrictions that were put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus starting this weekend, but he has not yet said what will change.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
In other developments:
— The National Guard was activated Tuesday for a training exercise to construct a 90-bed temporary medical care facility at MetraPark in Billings, The Billings Gazette reported. The ability to quickly set up the facility is a critical component of the governor’s plan to reopen the state, said Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn. The work was expected to start Wednesday. The facility is not intended to be used because both Billings hospitals have adequate capacity. The materials could be stored for future use across the state for natural disasters or other emergencies.
— Bullock announced Tuesday the state had obtained 244,000 KN95 masks, 110,000 surgical masks, 54,500 face shields and 55,000 gloves from several private market suppliers. On Monday, the state received, 5,000 nasal swabs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
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