Montana tops 400 COVID-19 cases as residents begin receiving federal stimulus money

By the numbers

Montana reached 404 known COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, with at least 209 recoveries statewide and 21 actively hospitalized.

That represents a gain of five cases since Tuesday, the same number of cases the state added Monday and Tuesday. Prior to this week, the last time the state added fewer than seven cases in a day was March 22.

On Monday, the state saw its seventh death, a Flathead County resident older than 65 with preexisting health conditions. There have been a cumulative 50 hospitalizations and 9,583 tests run at the state lab in Helena.

Of the seven deaths, information provided by counties or families about five of the people shows that they were older. Three of the state’s deaths have been in Toole County, where there’s an outbreak in an assisted living facility. There were 26 cases there by Wednesday.

Fourteen of the cases there are for people ages 60 and older, including five cases for those 80-89 and three cases for those older than 90.

Gallatin County remained the state’s hot spot, with 139 cases. The county has gained one case since Friday. On Wednesday, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported the City-County Board of Public Health there voted to pass an emergency rule saying that anyone with COVID-19 who violates an order that they isolate themselves for 14 days could be subject to a misdemeanor and fine.

On April 7 the public health officer in Gallatin County signed an order saying that people who have tested positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate. The order also asked people who are close contacts with known cases and have been tested for COVID-19 to self-quarantine while waiting for test results.

The state’s 1.06 million residents are under a stay-at-home order that runs through April 24, though that could be extended.

Gov. Steve Bullock said last week all the directives he’s issued, such as closing down K-12 public schoolsrequiring most people traveling into the state to self-quarantine for two weeks; and the shuttering of many businesses where people congregate, like bars and theaters, are all on the same timeline and he will re-evaluate continuing those orders, with input from public health officials and others, on a two-week basis going forward.

On Wednesday Bullock also announced the formation of a task force dedicated to determining how to best deploy, following federal guidance, the $1.25 billion heading to the state under the federal CARES Act.

The task force is made up of 26 people who represent small business owners, the agriculture sector, nonprofits, economic development organizations, financial institutions and more.

The state Department of Labor and Industry said Tuesday it has started paying Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit, which is an additional $600 to those who have lost jobs or incomes, on top of state unemployment payments.

On Wednesday, $1,200 individual payments began arriving in bank accounts as part of a $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package. Depending on income, adults will receive up to $1,200 each and $500 per child. The checks will be directly deposited into bank accounts or mailed to households in the coming weeks, depending on how they filed their tax returns.

How people use those payments likely depends on their circumstances, Billings financial planner Anthony Miller said. If someone has lost their job or is furloughed, the money will likely be used as a patch for necessities. Others might use the cash to pay down debt, or to try to support businesses in their local economy.

“This act was just a bridge,” Miller said. “It wasn’t meant to be long term. … What they decided to do is come up with a program that would push the most liquidity as quickly as possible.”

One trend that Miller, who owns Retirement Solutions, said that he’s seen from his clients — who typically are financially stable — is an interest in trying to help those affected by the economic slowdown.

“The conversations that I’ve had, more often than not … have been about, ‘How can I use these funds to benefit my friends and family in this time?’” he said.