April 3 update: Bullock expects to extend directives to stay home, close schools, restrict eateries to April 24; airport screenings begin in Great Falls; city suspends multi-animal permit inspections

Gov. Steve Bullock said during an April 3 press briefing that his directives that are set to expire April 10 will likely be extended.

Those directives include the order to stay home; close public schools; restrict restaurants, bars and other public places; close non-essential businesses; self-quarantine for incoming travelers; and more.

Bullock said he hasn’t extended them yet, but anticipates doing so early next week.

He said he’s trying to keep the state directives in two week blocks and anticipates extending to the directives to April 24. He said he’s making those decisions in consultation with public health officials in the state.

Bullock said teachers and administrators are providing good remote learning opportunities, but has no doubt teachers and students would prefer to get back into the classroom.

He said it’s premature to switch to remote learning for the remainder of the school year and will continue monitoring the situation in two-week chunks.

Bullock said he would love to get back to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible.

“Like most Montanans, I’m over this, I wish the virus was,” Bullock said.

Bullock said the stay at home order is working to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent community spread.

He said of the positive COVID-19 cases, about 10 percent were people working in healthcare.

Staying home and washing hands are critical, he said.

“These basic things may seem somewhat mundane,” Bullock said. “Life in Montana certainly isn’t’ the same as it was just a month ago. These are unprecedented times.”

Bullock also said today that he will extend federal food assistance to more than 100,000 Montanans, increase food supplies at emergency food pantries and food banks, and streamline nutrition assistance for new mothers and children. All of these changes are made available through flexibility and funding provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and will be implemented by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

The state will double its supply of food commodities from the federal government that will be provided at no cost to people in need of short-term hunger relief through food pantries, food banks, soup kitchens, tribal partners, and senior centers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture makes commodity foods available to states for distribution to low-income people through emergency food providers, according to a release from Bullock’s office.

Bullock is also using new flexibility through the CARES Act to allow SNAP participants in Montana to continue receiving assistance for 12 months and to waive the three-month time-limit that applies to certain SNAP recipients. Families will not have to reapply during the emergency – their benefits will be automatically renewed. Additionally, Governor Bullock is requesting from the USDA the maximum food assistance available for families eligible for SNAP in April and May. These changes are expected to help more than 100,000 Montanans, according to a release.

Montanans who receive food assistance from SNAP can check their balance online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by opening an account at apply.mt.gov. Clients can also check their benefits by calling 1-866-850-1556.

The state is making it easier for new mothers and those caring for young children to access the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children by providing services over the phone, and more flexibility in purchasing WIC foods at the store. Local clinics can be found through an easy search at www.signupwic.com. More information may be found at www.wic.mt.gov or by calling 1-800-433-4298.

Current WIC recipients can easily check their benefits by using the WICShopper application, calling the number on the back of their card, or asking their clinic staff or store staff to provide them a benefit balance.

Health screenings at Great Falls International Airport

Per Gov. Steve Bullock’s March 30 directive, all travelers arriving from other states and/or countries, for non-work-related purposes, should self-quarantine for 14 days.

As part of this directive and in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Human Services, the Montana National Guard is screening those arriving at Great Falls International Airport for possible Symptoms of COVID-19.

“These screenings are now taking place, in the exit lane of the airport checkpoint. Passengers will be asked several heath questions and their temperature will be taken. Passengers that have a temperature will be asked to wait for a remote health screening with a medical professional. All screenings are voluntary,” according to the airport. “Health screening interactions may constitute HIPAA protected consultations.”

Teriyaki Madness donations for healthcare workers

Teriyaki Madness has introduced a pay-it-forward campaign, through which Great Falls residents can help provide free meals to local healthcare workers.

Starting April 1, Teriyaki Madness of Great Falls is partnering with its fans to match the contribution for the cost of meals for healthcare workers. Visit catering.teriyakimadness.com and select the “Healthcare Teriyaki Bar” to have a fully loaded teriyaki spread delivered to the healthcare location of your choice, within 5-6 miles of the restaurant.Every Teriyaki Bar feeds giant, hot and healthy teriyaki bowls for up to 10 people. The Terikayi Bar is $150, customers pay $75 and Teriyaki Madness matches to cover the rest with free delivery to a healthcare location.

City of Great Falls

To reduce potential COVID-19 exposure, the City of Great Falls has issued Executive Order 2020-3, suspending multiple-animal and multiple animal hobby breeder permit inspections. Inspections will resume 30 days following the rescission of the state of emergency order.

While the inspections are suspended, residents are still obligated to submit their permit applications to the Great Falls Animal Shelter. Multiple-animal and multiple animal hobby breeder permits are required for City residents with more than two dogs and two cats at a premise or facility. Permit applications are available online.

Applications can be submitted by mail to Great Falls Animal Shelter, 1010 25th Ave. N.E., P.O. Box 5021, Great Falls, MT 59404; or by email at gfanimalshelter@greatfallsmt.net

For questions related to multi-animal and multiple animal hobby permits, contact the Great Falls Animal Shelter at 406-454-2276. For information on the City of Great Falls’ COVID-19 protective measures, closures, cancellations, and executive orders visit the city website or call 406-455-8496.

Drivers license renewals

At the request of Attorney General Tim Fox, the governor’s office issued a directive April 2 temporarily suspending certain requirements for online driver license renewal and extending deadlines for vehicle registration. 

Driver Services

During this time, citizens needing a driver’s license renewal will be allowed to self-certify their ability to drive instead of requiring forms signed by medical and vision professionals.

Online and mail-in renewals will be good for a maximum of two years and will be offered for the duration of the declared state-of-emergency.

While exam stations will remain open, the Motor Vehicle Division asks Montanans to utilize the online or mail-in renewal option if able. Additional options are available for main-in renewals, please see the website.

A few reminders:

  • All Montana-issued Class D driver licenses that expired on March 1 until May 30, remain valid for an additional 90 days after their expiration date.
  • Class D driving tests have been suspended until at least April 18.
  • To help with social distancing, customers in our driver license station waiting areas will be limited.
  • Commercial driver licenses and medical cards will be given an extension until June 30 if the card expired on March 1 or later.

Vehicle Services

A 90-day extension will be provided to dealerships to submit paperwork to county offices and vehicle owners to title and register any vehicles transferred after March 16.

Renewals may be completed online up to 30 days past the month shown on the vehicle’s registration tab.

For more information about MVD services go to the website.

Great Falls College MSU graduation

Great Falls College MSU will be celebrating its graduates in a unique way this year.  The impact of COVID-19 has altered the delivery of classes at the college, and now the graduation ceremony.

“The college loves to celebrate students and their successes, and during this rare time, we had to find another way to honor the incredible accomplishments of our students rather than an in-person commencement ceremony ,” said Dr. Susan Wolff, CEO/Dean.  “We understand that graduation celebrations symbolize a rite of passage for our graduates and their friends and family.”

The decision was made as the entire Montana University System shifts from traditional in-person ceremonies in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our students have worked hard to complete their credentials, and we will be celebrating their accomplishments with them, even if we are not gathered together in the traditional way,” Wolff said.

The 2020 graduates are encouraged to walk during the 2021 graduation and pinning ceremonies and will receive special recognition at those events.

Great Falls College also will create a special graduation mailing, which will include access to a congratulatory video from Dr. Wolff, student body president Julius Scott and others from the college.

Students are encouraged to send in photos and videos from their time at Great Falls College to communications director Scott Thompson at scott.thompson@gfcmsu.edu for possible inclusion in the congratulatory video.

Total cases in Montana

According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services there are now 262 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 6,057 tests have been completed as of April 3.

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

  • Cascade County: 11 cases
  • Gallatin County: 101 cases
  • Yellowstone County: 38 cases
  • Flathead County: 20 cases
  • Missoula County: 17 cases
  • Lewis and Clark County: 13 cases
  • Toole County: 12 cases
  • Silver Bow County: 11 cases
  • Madison County: 6 cases
  • Lincoln County: 6 cases
  • Park County: 6 cases
  • Lake County: 4 cases
  • Broadwater County: 4 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
  • Carbon County: 1 case
  • Glacier County: 1 case