HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Montana on Thursday in order to help with planning and response to COVID-19 novel coronavirus.
There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in the state as of March 12. Though, a Montana woman visiting Maryland was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 11th.
The order comes on the heels of the Montana University System announcing they would be moving to online classes for the remainder of the school year and several sporting events, including the NAIA Women’s basketball tournament in Billings, being canceled around the state.
Bullock stressed at a Thursday press conference that now is the time to prepare, not panic.
“Most important thing Montanans can do right now is help protect themselves, their families and their communities,” said Bullock. “That can be as simple as following everyday steps to prevent respiratory illness. It's not just for yourself, it's also in the event you come in contact with other individuals.”
The executive order clears the way for mobilizing state resources, such as $16 million in emergency funds and personnel from the National Guard, should/when the virus arrives.
Montana has tested 55 individuals for the virus as of Thursday, and all of the tests came back negative. Bullock told members of the press the state has 1,000 tests available, an increase of 800 since Mar. 3.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the individuals most at risk for a severe case of coronavirus are older adults and people with a serious chronic medical condition like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.
The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) said they’re working to try to better protect those vulnerable populations.
“The Department had a recent conference call with nursing homes across the state and hospitals, and discussions about protecting those vulnerable populations, implement visitor restrictions, and ensuring health care workers that are coming in aren’t systematic,” said Todd Harwell, DPHHS Public Health and Safety administrator.