COVID-19 in Montana: 184 cases; 4 deaths (Tuesday morning, March 31)

One new case confirmed in Cascade County
Posted at 8:59 AM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 10:59:43-04

As of Tuesday morning (March 31), there are now 184 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Montana, and four deaths.

The first death was 77-year old Lincoln County resident Jim Tomlin, whose death was reported on Friday . On Sunday afternoon, public health officials confirmed the death of a Madison County resident who had tested positive for COVID-19. On Monday, officials in Toole County confirmed two deaths attributed to COVID-19.

QUARANTINE FOR TRAVELERS: On Monday afternoon, Governor Steve Bullock directed that travelers arriving from another state or country to Montana for non-work-related purposes undergo a 14-day self-quarantine. Bullock said the directive applies both to Montana residents and non-residents entering the state for non-work-related purposes. It requires a self-quarantine for 14 days, or the duration of a non-work trip to Montana, whichever is shorter. It also instructs the Montana Department of Commerce to advise vacation listing and rental sites that they must notify potential out-of-state renters about the quarantine requirement. Health care workers are excluded from the directive. In addition, the directive authorizes the Montana National Guard to conduct temperature checks at Montana airports and rail stations and screen for potential exposure history for travelers arriving in Montana from another state or country.

STATE SUMMARY: As of Tuesday morning (March 31), there are now 184 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Montana, and four deaths, according to the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS). Here are the counties with the most confirmed cases in Montana:

Gallatin 69; Yellowstone 28; Missoula 12; Lewis & Clark 11; Butte-Silver Bow 11; Flathead 11; Cascade 8; Toole 6; Madison 6; Lincoln 5; Broadwater 3; Deer Lodge 3; Lake 3; Park 3.

County health departments and the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services release data by county only, and do not provide information on which towns the patients live in.

Officials in Montana are keeping a list of confirmed cases in the Treasure State on an updated map and website - click here to visit the site . There have now been 14 hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Montana.

As of Monday evening, the DPHHS public health lab in Helena has completed more than 4,411 tests for COVID-19. Officials know that the number of actual cases is undoubtedly much higher, and are continuing to test in accordance with CDC guidelines. The "recovery rate" for Montana has not yet been determined, as COVID-19 is still relatively new in our state and there is not enough data to calculate an accurate rate at this point.

CASCADE COUNTY CASES: There are now EIGHT confirmed cases in Cascade County, an increase of one from previous reports: two women in their 20s; one man in his 30s; two women and two men in their 50; one man in his 80s. The City-County Health Department in Great Falls said the new case is a man in his 80s, and he is isolated. Public health officials are conducting a contact investigation, and will identify and reach out to anyone who may have been exposed.

The City-County Health Department in Great Falls has declined to release any other details of the confirmed cases due to federal privacy laws such as HIPAA. County health departments and the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services release data by county only, and do not provide information on which towns the patients live in.

GREAT FALLS: Law enforcement officials in Great Falls said in a news conference on Friday that they strongly encourage residents to follow Bullock's order and stay in their homes, unless there is a critical need to leave the residence. They made it clear, however, that people can leave their homes to get groceries, buy food from a restaurant, go to medical appointments, provide care for others, and other activities that are deemed essential. They can also drive around and enjoy the outdoors, but officials stressed that maintaining a "social distance" of at least six feet from other people is critical.

They explained what the governor's order meant in terms of law enforcement actions. They said that travel throughout Great Falls and Cascade County is not restricted, and officers will not be stopping people simply to make them justify their travel. Law enforcement officers will continue to conduct proactive patrols, respond to calls for assistance, and make traffic stops when appropriate.

ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES: Governor Steve Bullock last Thursday issued a directive requiring Montanans to stay home and temporarily closes all nonessential businesses and operations as efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) continue.

The order went into effect on Saturday, March 28. The order will be in effect through Friday, April 10, and requires all businesses and operations in Montana, except for essential businesses and operations as defined in the directive, to stop all activities within the state. KRTV has received many questions from employees and businesses about what "essential" means, and why some businesses have remained open that some people don't believe are "essential."

Great Falls City Manager Greg Doyon offered some clarification. Most businesses that believe they are not considered essential have made the decision to close out of concern for public health and that of their own employees. If a business has decided to remain open, there aren't any penalties at this time. Doyon said that the city is following public health guidelines and the governor's directive before they would request that any business close its doors, and hopes that businesses use common sense. If there is a specific instance of a major public health concern, the County Attorney may act on behalf of the City-County Health Department, but Doyon says we aren't at that point yet. Click here for a list of businesses that are considered "essential" at this point .

Employees who are not sure if they are considered essential should talk with their manager/business owner. Business owners with questions can call at 1-800-755-6672 and leave messages 24-hours a day and will receive a prompt response, according to Governor Steve Bullock.