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Bullock: State to distribute more coronavirus testing supplies, masks

Posted at 7:19 PM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-21 10:22:46-04

Gov. Steve Bullock said, so far, Montana has had enough supplies to give coronavirus tests to everyone who has been identified by health care providers, but he said they are still looking for more.

Bullock gave an update Friday on the state’s efforts to prepare for COVID-19. He said leaders will soon be distributing additional supplies from state and federal emergency stockpiles.

This weekend, Bullock said about 16,000 N95 masks will be provided to hospitals and first responders around the state. He said additional swabs – which are used to collect samples for testing – will also be arriving soon.

“There is a national shortage of supplies to a degree needed for COVID-19, and we’re doing everything possible to overcome this challenge in Montana – secure necessary materials that will allow the health care community to safely test those who need it,” said Bullock.

Earlier on Friday, Bullock ordered the statewide closure of dine-in restaurants, bars, breweries and other businesses that could draw large gatherings. He said he had been considering the action for several days, but now was the right time to do it.

“As we see positive cases that include both younger and older Montanans, and in cases urban and now rural, I know that that closure and these actions are imperative to protect our friends and neighbors,” he said.

The order takes effect at 8 p.m. Friday, and expires at 11:59 p.m. on March 27 – the same time that statewide school closures are set to expire. However, Bullock said that time was chosen simply to align the two measures, and that it was very possible both orders would be extended.

Bullock also announced that Montana’s income tax filing deadline will be extended from April 15 to July 15. The change brings the state in line with the federal deadline, which was already delayed.

During Friday’s update, Bullock praised actions by Montana businesses and individuals that have worked to help their neighbors during this time. He asked all Montanans to continue doing all they can.

“There are two ways that together, we’re going to make it through all of this – and Montanans are already engaging in both of those ways,” he said. “First, preventative measures through social distancing, and second, looking out for one another with our strong community ties.”