On Tuesday, Montana reached 10,000 active COVID cases in the state, 4,000 of which were added in the last week alone.
Gov. Steve Bullock held a COVID press conference Tuesday with state health experts to address rising cases, business compliance and upcoming holiday celebrations.
Montana joins 46 other states this week in seeing a rise in COVID cases. The increase in cases has also seen more hospitalizations and deaths associated with the virus.
“The virus has already brought death to more than 300 Montanans,” said Bullock. “As we know there is a delay in incubation periods which means we’re only going to see our hospitals continue to be stretched.”
Bullock says it’s going to take Montanans working together, wearing masks and social distancing in order to stop the spread.
Last week, the state announced they had adapted an online complaint form where people could anonymously report violations of COVID health protocols.
As of Tuesday, the state had received 1,300 submissions from 40 different counties. State Communicable Disease Bureau Chief Jim Murphy said that around 1,000 were concerns about businesses and 300 were comments not about a business.
“What was encouraging was after reviewing these was that there wasn’t one comment that we received that was attacking a business or overly negative about the business,” explained Murphy. “Most of the comments were very constructive and they were basically expressing concern about their own health, health of the customers, health of the workers and their own co-workers.”
The state has pursued legal action against five Flathead County businesses for repeatedly ignoring and making a display of ignoring COVID health mandates.
Montana has already settled one of the cases out of court, which Bullock says is ultimately the goal.
“The whole idea behind this and the hope is that all of these cases are settled,” said Bullock. “Meaning that what these businesses chose to do is follow the directives along the way, then the legal actions will certainly be dropped. The goal isn’t to punish any business. The goal is to keep customers safe and healthy through this pandemic.”
With the holiday season right around the corner, the state also stressed the importance of people following guidelines and making plans to help limit the spread.
“We’re not going to take your holidays away, but we want to encourage folks to be diligent and to do these things safely so that we can still continue to celebrate the holidays with our loved ones,” said Lead Epidemiologist Stacey Anderson.
Anderson is encouraging people to incorporate a mask into their costume, avoid large parties and follow social distancing when trick-or-treating.
Trick-or-treaters should also stay home if they are sick or have been asked to quarantine by their county public health.