HELENA — Saturday marks one year since the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in Montana. Ahead of that anniversary, Gov. Greg Gianforte said there’s reason for optimism.
During a news conference Friday, Gianforte noted that the number of active COVID cases in the state had fallen below 1,000 for the first time since last July. He said 39 of Montana’s 56 counties now have fewer than 10 active cases.
Gianforte said the state has suffered tremendous losses during the pandemic – from the nearly 1,400 Montanans who have died from the disease, to the businesses that have struggled to stay open, to what he called “underreported impacts” like isolation, depression, domestic violence and food insecurity.
Gianforte thanked health care workers, volunteers and everyone else in the state who stepped up to help over the last year.
“In Montana, neighbors help neighbors – it’s what we do, and it’s what we’ve done during this difficult year,” he said. “While the light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter, our Montana resiliency shines even brighter.”
Gianforte again urged Montanans to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to them.
“Getting a vaccine will help us stop the spread of this virus, getting one will help us get back to a normal life, and getting one will help us put this public health and economic crisis fully behind us – something we can all look forward to,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Matt Quinn, who leads Gianforte’s COVID-19 task force, said state leaders are hopeful they’ll be able to expand vaccine eligibility to all adults in Montana soon. However, he declined to say specifically whether the state can meet the goal set by President Joe Biden on Tuesday, of making vaccines available to all adults by May 1.
Quinn praised the work of public health officials around the state.
“You may not agree with all the decisions they’ve made – many decisions I’ve been a part of – but I assure you, those decisions were not made out of malice, a desire for power, or self-serving attitudes,” he said. “Quite the opposite: Those decisions were selflessly made to try to protect each and every one of our fellow Montanans.”