Coronavirus update: Schools closed until March 27

by Chris Peterson
Editor | March 18, 2020 6:38 AM

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced Sunday afternoon that Montana K-12 schools would be closed March 16 (Monday) through March 27 in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state.

All told, six people have tested positive for the virus in Montana as of Sunday night.

“As governor, it is my top priority to protect the health and safety of Montanans, particularly our most vulnerable, at a time when we face the potential for extraordinary health risks from coronavirus in our state,” Bullock said. “Social distancing is one of the most important primary protective measures to flatten the curve of this virus. I cannot underscore the seriousness of following these measures to help our neighbors, friends, and families.”

Schools will engage in planning to provide arrangements to provide free meals to students who need them, pursuant to a waiver obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture, and to provide for all other matters and services that students need in the event of future or ongoing closure. Schools will continue to receive all state funding during this two-week closure, a press release from Bullock’s office explained.

The state will work with schools during this period to evaluate and consider next steps as needed. The decision to close schools is to slow the spread and is not in response to an outbreak in schools, the release said.

“I recognize that our schools often serve as a lifeline for families and that this decision is going to have disruption on Montanans over the coming weeks. I’m committed to working with schools, communities and public health to minimize the impact. I encourage businesses to do everything they can to support families as well,” Bullock said.

Bullock encouraged all employers to be generous with their employee sick and paid leave.

Bullock also strongly recommending that the public limits all gatherings, especially those more than 50 people, in every community across the state.

Bullock also recommended that individuals over the age of 60 or who are immuno-compromised or with chronic health conditions do not participate in gatherings of more than 20 people. He also recommended that parents should avoid, if possible, placing children for childcare with grandparents or individuals over the age of 60 or immuno-compromised persons.

Visitation in Montana’s nursing homes is suspended except for certain compassionate care situations.

That includes the Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls. The home announced late Friday it was closing to visitors in most situations. People who meet the exception for visitation will undergo a screening to determine whether they have traveled in the last two weeks, are residing where community spread is occurring, or if they have symptoms consistent with coronavirus, Bullock’s office said.