Montana Attorney General Tim Fox was in Billings Tuesday to see first hand how Yellowstone County has focused its resources in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fox checked out the COVID-19 incident command center in the Stillwater Building downtown, and then later toured the county's quarantine facility at MetraPark.
Fox told MTN News his top priority is slowing the spread of the virus and protecting the safety of the 750 employees under his watch at the Montana Department of Justice.
Part of that, he said, entails looking ahead at an uncertain future.
"I've been working with lawmakers, legislators, and leaders about what does the future look like," said Fox. "What do we need to do in state government, in particular, to plan for the likely outcomes on budget, revenue? What are the new norms going to be ? How do we keep people safe and healthy?"
Fox said the state Department of Justice has taken steps to social distance, including new temporary online driver's license renewal, with no need for an eye test.
Fox said the pandemic has opened up new, innovative ways to conduct business.
"How much in-person court hearings do we need?" Fox said. "We certainly have been able to function to some extent without people being in the same courtroom. So I think - again - we're going to have to rethink going forward, just how much more can we do, more efficiently, less expensively, regardless of whether there is a virus out there that causes us to social distance."
Fox says although Montana has had the ability in recent years to do remote court hearings, the state has kind of "limped along."
"This whole coronavirus has illustrated some of the needs we have in our court system and justice system in general,"said Fox. "I think we're going to need to do some rethinking."