March 31 updates: 9th case assigned to Cascade County; Bullock issues directives for landlords, residential foreclosures; Great Falls Clinic closing on Fridays

As of 5 p.m., Cascade County now has nine positive COVID-19 cases assigned to the county.

The presumptive positive for a man in his 80s was confirmed by the state lab today.

The ninth case is a man in his 40s, according to the Cascade County City-County Health Department.

“As always, CCHD’s infectious disease team is conducting a contact investigation on this new case, and will identify and reach out to anyone who may have been exposed,” according to CCHD.

More information is available on CCHD’s website or call 406-454-6950 with questions.

Bullock directives

Gov. Steve Bullock issued two directives on March 31 to address financial issues related to COVID-19.

One directive prohibits landlords from evicting anyone who can’t pay rent during the stay at home order and prohibits late fees or other penalties due to late payment or nonpayment of rent during stay at home order.

His directive also stops residential foreclosures for nonpayment for the duration of the stay at home order.

“It’s not a free pass on rent or on home debt,” Bullock said.

March 30 update: New presumptive positive in Cascade County, unconfirmed; Bullock orders quarantine for incoming travelers; 4 COVID-19 deaths in Montana; 177 cases statewide; county clerk and recorder’s office by appointment only; municipal court changes

Tenants and homeowners need to meet their obligations and should do so on time if possible, he said.

But so long as the virus forces Montanans to stay home to save lives, Montanans need homes to stay in, Bullock said.

The directive also prohibits the suspension of utilities and late fees during the emergency, Bullock said. He said many utility companies have already voluntarily suspended service disconnections for nonpayment or late payment during the stay at home order.

Bullock also issued a directive allowing hospitals and related facilities to receive financing to remain open and acquire supplies needed under the Montana Facility Finance Authority Act for operating expenses connected to COVID-19.

Those facilities have lost revenues due to delayed noncritical procedures, or working to acquire supplies and other pandemic related issues, Bullock said. He said recently approved federal programs will help, but that funding will likely take time to be distributed so the financing meets their immediate need to purchase supplies, pay staff and remain open.

When Bullock extended the school closures in a directive last week, it required school districts to submit plans on how they would continue to provide instruction and services.

Bullock thanked the school administrators, teachers and staff for their efforts to adjust.

“They’ve acclimated quickly,” he said.

Bullock said during the March 31 press briefing that he’s waving the pupil instruction time requirements through April 10 and districts will continue to receive state funding during this time.

In answering press questions, Bullock said he wants more testing available in the state.

He said right now there are 1,600 test kits available in the state, but the frustration was up through late last week, states could order at most 600 tests at a time through the Centers for Disease Control and couldn’t place another order until the first had been placed.

Bullock said the state public health lab has days when it’s running 500 tests and deliveries don’t occur on Sunday.

If the state loses one day to lack of tests, or had a spike in testing, it would create a significant backlog, Bullock said.

He said he’s had calls with federal agencies and state agencies are working to increase testing capability daily with private supply chains and also asking the federal government for resources.

In Montana, Bullock said there’s “been no one turned away from tests because we don’t have enough test kits.”

He said he asked on a conference call last week with hospital administrators if they’d heard of anyone with symptoms or meeting the criteria from the Centers for Disease Control not being tested. He said no one on the call had heard that happening.

Bullock said getting tested for COVID-19 is at the discretion of healthcare providers who consider symptoms and other criteria like whether they’ve traveled to an area where the pandemic was prevalent, or been in contact with someone who tested positive.

The state medical officer, Dr. Gregory Holzman said that his guidance to healthcare providers was to perform tests if they felt a patient has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to conduct contact tracing and prevent spread. He said that’s his guidance and to let state officials continue to work on the supply chain issues.

So far, Montana is not testing anyone who is asymptomatic, Bullock said.

Bullock said National Guardsmen will be at airports taking temperatures of people coming off planes and give them some information on the quarantine directive.

Right now, in Great Falls, that hasn’t yet been implemented, according to John Faulkner, director of the Great Falls International Airport.

Guardsmen do not have the authority to detain anyone with a temperature but will recommend that they talk to a healthcare provider, Bullock said.

Great Falls Clinic

“In an effort to support social distancing for employees and patients, we will be closed temporarily on Friday’s until further notice. Some departments will remain open during their normal hours including the Hospital, Northwest Clinic, Immediate Care Center and Radiation Oncology/Infusion. Appointments will still be scheduled regularly Monday through Thursday. Please call us if you have any questions.”

Clerk of Court

The Clerk of Court office at the county courthouse is closed to walk-in traffic, effective March 27.

According to signs posted at the courthouse, marriage licences will be issued by appointment only by calling 454-6780.

All court filings should be submitted via U.S. mail, or delivered and individual boxes may be picked up Monday through Friday from 10-11 a.m. or 3-4 p.m. Call 464-6780 to schedule an appointment if service is needed outside those time slots.

All child support, court fines/fees and other court related payments should be paid by cashier’s check or money order.

City of Great Falls

“To ensure the safety of residents and employees, the City of Great Falls has temporarily closed many offices to walk-in visitors. Customer service needs are now provided via email, over the phone, online, or by appointment if deemed necessary. City employees are telecommuting or rotating shifts to maintain social distancing from each other. Critical services that cannot be performed from home, like public safety, sanitation, road maintenance, rely on shift rotations, personal hygiene, workplace sanitation, and social distancing to minimize risk and exposure.

As outlined in the Governor’s Stay at Home Directive, local governments have the authority to designate which functions and employees are essential and exempt from the directive. The City of Great Falls’ Continuity of Operations Plan outlines the city’s critical functions and designates essential personnel.

For more information on the City of Great Falls’ COVID-19 protective measures, closures, cancellations, and Executive Orders, visit https://greatfallsmt.net/citymanager/covid-19-updates or contact the Communications Division at 406-455-8496.”

Total cases in Montana

According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services there are now 198 cases of COVID-19 across the state. One of those cases is counted in Montana though the woman was tested and remains in Maryland.

There have been five deaths from the virus, according to DPHHS.

So far, according to DPHHS, a total of 4,558 tests have been completed as of March 31.

state tracking map shows the confirmed cases are as follows by county:

  • Cascade County: 9 cases
  • Gallatin County: 74 cases
  • Yellowstone County: 31 cases
  • Missoula County: 14 cases
  • Lewis and Clark County: 12 cases
  • Flathead County: 11 cases
  • Silver Bow County: 10 cases
  • Madison County: 6 cases
  • Toole County: 6 cases
  • Lincoln County: 5 cases
  • Broadwater County: 3 cases
  • Park County: 3 cases
  • Lake County: 3 cases
  • Deer Lodge County: 3 cases
  • Jefferson County: 2 cases
  • Ravalli County: 1 case
  • Roosevelt County: 1 case
  • Hill County: 1 case
  • Meagher County: 1 case
  • Liberty County: 1 case
  • Musselshell County: 1 case