Gov. Steve Bullock urged Montanans Wednesday to take precautions such as face masks seriously as COVID-19 cases rise across the state.
Bullock said in a Wednesday news conference in Helena that Montana has seen 43 new cases over the past four days, which includes clusters in seven counties.
Increasing testing is partially responsible, Bullock said, citing increased contact tracing and free surveillance testing events across the state, including in Big Horn and Carbon counties and an upcoming event this weekend in Billings.
Bullock encouraged Montanans to make wearing face masks a normal part of their routine when going out in public places as the state continues to reopen.
Bullock also announced a new program for businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown: the Montana Loan Deference Program.
The $125 million program, funded by the federal coronavirus relief act, allows eligible businesses to defer existing loans for six months to a year. The payments can cover up to 6 percent of the loan or $150,000.
Bullock said the state is dedicating $25 million of the program to hard-hit hotels and restaurants and the remaining $100 million to other businesses.
Watch the full news conference below: