March 18 COVID-19 updates: four more positive cases in Montana; gun show canceled; OPI requests waivers; governor adapts unemployment, small business loans; Rec Center closing; updated GFPS meal pickup locations; take-out options; to-go art from Brush Crazy

Gov. Steve Bullock today confirmed four additional positive cases of COVID-19 in Montana.

This morning he confirmed two patients are males in their 20s from Gallatin County, according to the governor’s office.

This evening, he confirmed a Missoula County male in his 50s and a Gallatin County male in his 60s.

Today’s additional cases brings Montana’s total number of cases to 12. A case announced Wednesday morning for a male in their 20s from Gallatin County will be classified as a New Hampshire case after it was determined the patient is a resident there.

State and local public health laboratories are no longer required to send “presumptive positive” samples to CDC for confirmation. From now on, respiratory samples positive for SARS-CoV2 in a state and public-health laboratory will be considered “positive” with no need for further testing.

County health board calls emergency meeting, opts not to restrict bars and restaurants yet; working with business owners to develop plan for eventual restrictions

COVID-19 delays county zoning meeting on distillery permit

DPHHS and the local county health department is immediately following up to learn more details about the two individual’s exposure risk, travel history, and to identify and communicate with anyone who may have been in close contact with the patients.

March 17 COVID-19 updates: Home and Garden Show postponed; GF Clinic releases response operations; Red Cross needs blood donations; DMV changes; food pantries

All patients will be isolated or quarantined pursuant to public health guidelines. Those who came into close contact with the individuals will be monitored for 14 days for fever and respiratory symptoms per CDC guidance.

The number of tests performed are updated daily here.

Community Recreation Center closing

In response to the City County Health Department’s recommendation that all gatherings of 10 people or more be suspended for 15 days, the Community Recreation Center will close at noon March 18 and remain closed for 15 days. At that time, the closure will be reassessed and the appropriate action recommended by the CCHD will be implemented.
For more information, contact the Community Recreation Center at 406-727-6099.

Ice Breaker moved to Oct. 4, city Easter Egg Hunt canceled, other changes by city in response to COVID-19

Gun Show

The Great Falls Gun and Antique Show planned for this weekend has been canceled due to COVID-19. According to organizers, the April 24-26 show is still on as planned for the time being.

Library closing doors to public due to COVID-19, phone and online services still available

GFPS Meal Sites

Beginning March 18, meals are available from GFPS at the following sites:

  • Valley View Elementary: 900 Ave. A N.W. 11–11:20 a.m.
  • Riverview Elementary: 100 Smelter Ave. N.W. 11:30-11:50 a.m.
  • Carter Park: 611 3rd St. S. 12:10-12:30 p.m.
  • Rhodes Park: 812 Central Ave. W. 11–11:20 a.m.
  • West Elementary 1205 1st Ave. N.W. 11:25-11:45 a.m.
  • West Kiwanis Park: 723 1st Ave. N.W. 11:50-12:10 p.m.
  • Whittier Elementary: 305 8th St. N. 11–11:15 a.m.
  • Cameron Center: 408 2nd Ave. S. 11:20-11:35 a.m.
  • Great Falls High: 1900 2nd Ave. S. 11:45-12:05 p.m.
  • Paris Gibson Education Center: 2400 Central Ave. 12:15-12:30 p.m.
  • Giant Springs Elementary: 520 32nd St. N. 11–11:20 a.m.
  • Mountain View Elementary: 3420 15th Ave. S. 11:35-11:55 a.m.
  • Sunnyside Elementary: 1800 19th St. S. 12:10-12:20 p.m.
  • Morningside Elementary: 4119 7th Ave. N. 11-11:15 a.m.
  • Lewis and Clark Elementary: 3800 1st Ave. S. 11:25-11:45 a.m.
  • Chief Joseph Elementary: 5305 3rd Ave. S. 11:50-12:05 p.m.
  • Loy Elementary: 501 57th St. N. 12:10-12:25 p.m.

Lunch and breakfast will be served to all children 18 years and younger for free.

March 16 COVID-19 updates: CCHD awaiting official guidelines related to restaurants, bars and gatherings of more than 10; two more positive cases in Montana; Clark and Lewis offering free lunches to students

Take Out options in Great Falls

The Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce has put together a list of local restaurants that offer take out and delivery options.

The list is available here.

Brush Crazy offering to go kits

Brush Crazy is offering an alternative to getting creative during this season
of social distancing.

Pick up your to-gogh projects at Brush Crazy, 315 Central Ave. during regular business hours that can be found at www.brushcrazy.com and click to the GF location to view the calendar.

The staff of artists will include all the supplies you will need to make fun art a part of your “new” lifestyle, painting from the comfort of your own home or business. A $10 deposit will be taken for supplies, when they are returned, your deposit will be refunded. All items are sanitized before and after leaving the building.

You can e-mail requests to studio1@brushcrazy.com or call the studio 406-315-4260 for more information.

The studio is still available for walk in customers and to choose your own projects to take
home.

Unemployment and small business loans

Gov. Steve Bullock announced March 17 emergency rules to make unemployment benefits accessible to workers laid off due to COVID-19 and waive the typical one week waiting period before receiving benefits.

“The rules we’ve implemented today will ensure that workers impacted by COVID-19, whether it’s because they’ve been laid off, are quarantined, or need to take care of a family member, can do so without worrying about how they will make ends meet during these difficult times,” said in a release. “We will continue to do everything we can to support workers and businesses as we begin to fully understand the impacts of COVID-19 in Montana.”

The United States Department of Labor approved a request from the Montana Department of Labor & Industry to support workers financially impacted by COVID-19. The rules filed today with the Secretary of State’s office will go into effect immediately.

The rules allow a claimant directed by their employer to leave work or not report to work due to COVID-19 to qualify as being temporarily laid off by the employer and eligible for benefits. Workers who must quarantine or who need to take care of a family member due to COVID-19 are also considered temporarily laid off and eligible for benefits.

Additionally, the emergency rules allow DLI to waive the one week waiting period before typically receiving benefits to ensure Montanans don’t experience a long gap without a paycheck.

Montana employers will also receive help through these rules. Individual claims will not be chargeable to a specific employer’s account. The rules also include a provision that could extend the time employers have to file wage reports and pay unemployment insurance contributions if the delay is related to COVID-19.

Claimants are responsible for staying in contact with their employer and return to work when they have the opportunity. Claimants are not eligible for benefits if they could work from home but choose not to.

People who think they are eligible for these benefits can apply for benefits online at: montanaworks.gov or contact the Unemployment Insurance Division over the phone at for UI benefits online or over the phone at: (406) 444-2545.

On March 17, Bullock also announced that small businesses across Montana impacted by the COVID-19 are now eligible to apply for emergency loans through the Small Business Administration.

“We are monitoring the impacts of coronavirus in real time – both from a public health perspective and an economic health perspective,” said in a release. “Ensuring that small businesses in Montana have access to capital and resources that will allow them to weather temporary closures and bounce back from critical quarantine efforts is paramount to my administration.”

This week, the governor submitted Montana’s request for business assistance through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Access to that program has been approved.

Businesses are now eligible to apply for up to $2 million in 30-year loans with an interest rate of 3.75 percent. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.

Businesses may now apply directly to the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program here: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance

On March 18, Bullock announced expanded access to telemedicine services to ensure Montana Medicaid patients receive quality health care in their homes to prevent unnecessary gatherings at health care facilities and slow the spread of COVID-19.

On a call with the Montana Hospital Association, the Montana Medical Association, and the Montana Primary Care Association, Bullock announced several measures that will go into effect on Friday, March 20, including a policy to allow patients and providers to communicate via telephone or through secure online communications. The existing policy only allows telemedicine through video chat and leaves out Montanans who might not have access to video chat capabilities through laptops and smartphones, according to a release.

Bullock also announced he will eliminate language that prevents Medicaid for paying for telemedicine services if that patient and provider are located in the same community. A requirement that members should establish face-to-face relationships with primary care providers will also be waived.

Bullock is encouraging private insurance providers to enact the same policies for their customers.

Bullock also announced a plan to pay for COVID-19 tests and treatment for uninsured Montanans. State funds and potentially federal funds will be used to pay for testing and treatment beginning on March 23. To access this emergency assistance Montanans can call 406-444-7605 or email hhspresumptive@mt.gov.

Banks adjusting operations

Stockman Bank is closing bank lobbies across Montana, beginning March 23 until further notice. To ensure you still have access to banking services, drive-ups will remain open during regular business hours. Check with your local Stockman Bank to confirm operating hours. During this time, if you need to meet with a banker, your lender, or any other Stockman professional, you can contact your local Stockman Bank to make an appointment. Other online and phone services, as well as ATMs and night drops, remain available.

Embark Credit Union is temporarily closing lobbies at both locations beginning 5 p.m. March 18.

The bank is located at 1500 River Drive N. and 1915 10th Ave. S.

“Embark has planned and prepared for this temporary closure. Both locations will continue to be fully staffed and operating as usual with some limitations on coin counting and notarization services,” according to a release.

The decision to close was prompted by the community-wide need to slow potential COVID-19 infections in Great Falls, according to the release.

In addition to calling the credit union, members can use mobile banking, online banking, phone banking, ATMs and the credit union drive-ups.

Instructional Waivers

The Montana Office of Public Instruction has submitted state and federal waiver requests to ensure that local schools continue to receive funding, do not have to make up lost hours due to school closures, continue to have nutrition resources for students, and do not have to complete federal standardized tests in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a release.

“I urge the OPI’s state and federal partners to give our local schools maximum flexibility to serve the needs of their students and teachers in these extraordinary times while also protecting their health and safety,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen said in a release. “The OPI is committed to providing every possible support to our students. I am advocating that state and federal leaders provide certainty to local communities as we look ahead to school doors opening again.”

On March 17, the OPI held a conference call with district and county superintendents along with statewide education associations, the governor’s office, and representatives from Montana’s Congressional delegation to provide school leaders with updates and hear their questions and concerns. School leaders expressed the need for flexibility as they serve to protect their students and teachers in these extraordinary times, according to a release.

Following the call with local school leaders, the OPI submitted two requests to the governor to use his emergency powers to give schools flexibility. The first request is to hold schools harmless for lost instructional hours due to school closures. The second request is to ensure transportation reimbursements to schools so they have flexibility in using their transportation resources such as delivering educational materials or nutrition services, according to a release.

The OPI also submitted a request to the Board of Public Education and the governor to waive state rules related to federally mandated standardized tests. This will allow schools to focus on student and teacher safety during this time of recommended social distancing. The OPI will be submitting a similar request to the U.S. Department of Education this week, according to the release.

Finally, the OPI requested and received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to give schools flexibility for eligible districts to offer school nutrition services such as grab and go meal options or remote school meal sites, according to the release.

Malmstrom Air Force Base

Commissary: Beginning March 18, 100 percent I.D. card checks at the entrance of the store and will revoke the visitor policy. Beginning March 19, “early bird” shopping hours will be eliminated to allow more time for cleaning and re-stocking of our stores.

Malmstrom Fitness Center: Open to active duty only. IDs will be checked at a single-point of entry at west-side access door.

Grizzly Bend Community Center: mission-essential personnel only

Library: Open to briefly check-in/out materials, no programs or computer use.

Base Exchange- Monday-Friday open 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. There is no change to weekend hours.

Express-no change to operating hours.

Express-Roller Grill items(hot dogs, tornados, roller bites) will be bagged and placed in the warmer cabinet. Customers will no longer be able to bag their own items right off the grill.

Burger King hours 9a.m.-3 p.m. and drive thru only.

Food Court (Subway, Popeye’s) Take out only no on-site dining. No change to hours.

Closures

  • Theater
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Auto Hobby
  • Aces High Bowling Center
  • Outdoor Recreation
  • Grizzly Bend Lounge & Coffee Shop
  • FAC Testing at the fitness center
  • Balfour Beatty Community Center

Postponed

  • Women’s Leadership Panel – April 2020
  • Career & Education Fair – Until Further Notice
  • Chief Induction Ceremony – Until Further Notice
  • Airman Leadership School Class 20-D Graduation – Until Further Notice
  • Maintenance Professional of the Year Banquet – Until Further Notice
  • Intramural and varsity sports

Cancelled through the end of March

  • Youth programs: Leadership Club, The Arts, Kick Butts Day, Cultural Cooking Project, Smart Girls, Tween Night, The Arts, 4-H STEM/Robotics, Passport to Manhood, Super Saturday Archery Ham Shoot
  • Grizzly Bend: Jumpin’ Java
  • Airman & Family Readiness Center: Bundles for Babies, Everything EFMP, What Do I Want To Be And How Do I Get There
  • Auto Hobby shop: Auto Body Basics Class
  • Library: Babies and Toddlers, Girls Who Code, Storytime, Escape Room
  • Arts and Crafts: Craft Night
  • Group Fitness Classes

All classes below cancelled through March 2020:

  • COLLEGE 101 – (Enlisted and Officers) – March 17, 24, 31
  • SKILLBRIDGE PROGRAM– March 18, 2020
  • SKILLBRIDGE PROGRAM QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS – March 18, 2020