Bullock encourages Montanans to remain vigilant against coronavirus

by Chris Peterson
Editor | June 17, 2020 3:17 PM

Gov. Steve Bullock Wednesday urged Montanans to wear face masks where socially distancing wasn’t possible, as the state’s number of positive coronavirus cases creeps up.

“Let’s make mask wearing where socially distancing isn’t available the norm in Montana,” he said during a conference call with reporters.

There have been 69 new cases of the virus in the past seven days, Bullock noted. Some of that is due to increased testing and some cases were asymptomatic, meaning the people weren’t sick.

After two months without a case, Flathead County recorded two last week. Montana still has the lowest number of cases in the country.

Bullock urged the public to remain vigilant in the coming months, as the state has reopened and the number of visitors swells.

“We all have to commit to do more to slow the spread of the virus in the coming months,” he said, adding, “It should be evident to everyone the virus is still very much here.”

There were also five cases of people from out-of-state who tested positive while in Montana. At this point, however, the state hasn’t released where the five out-of-state cases were from, or where they were detected while in Montana.

Last week the state did 11,000 tests — which is close to the eventual goal of about 15,000 tests per week.

One of the hot spots in the state is in Big Horn County, where there’s been a number of cases on the Crow Indian Reservation. That county reported its third death on Tuesday from COVID-19.

On the economic front, Bullock announces a new state program funded through the CARES Act that will allow businesses to defer existing loan payments for 6 to 12 months, which should free up capital for them, he said.

The application and full details of that program will go live on June 22.

Visit: https://commerce.mt.gov/BusinessRecovery/COVID-19

Republicans claim that Bullock should be doing more and could release more CARES Act funding. The state received $1.25 billion in federal funds total.

The GOP claims that just 3% of the funds have been spent.

“While Gov. Bullock continues to sit on this relief in Helena, Montanans are suffering all over the state. We encourage the governor to drop the politics and get back to work for Montana,” Speaker of the House Greg Hertz, R-Polson, said in a release.

“To date, Gov. Bullock has only disbursed 3% of these funds to Montanans, while a backlog of nearly 10,000 applications for grant requests from businesses and individuals await their fate by the pen of the Bullock Administration.”

But Bullock said there is, in fact, transparency. The web site does list the businesses that have received grants so far, and the amounts they’ve received.

He claimed the federal government needs to do the same with its loan and grant programs. So far, the names of businesses that have received federal funds haven’t been released, by the Trump Administration which, Bullock claimed, made the state’s job more difficult in determining who really is in need of funds.