New relief program, new cases

The virus is still with us

Montana Governor Steve Bullock hosted a press call today to address the increase in positive COVID-19 cases, provide a testing update and lay out another Coronavirus Relief Fund offering for medium to larger businesses.

The new relief program partners with banks and lending institutions. “The program that we’re announcing today, the Montana Loan Deferment Program, will allow businesses and other entities to defer payments on existing loans for six to twelve months, and free up a significant amount of otherwise dedicated capitol for the borrower then to leverage on a monthly basis,” Gov Bullock said.

Twenty-five million dollars will be dedicated to hotels and restaurants and the remaining $100 million to other eligible borrowers. To be eligible, borrowers must have experienced a 25% reduction in gross revenue attributed to COVID-19 impacts and must not have access to 12 months of working capital from another source.

Full requirements are available at and applications will go live Monday morning. Loans are administered by the Board of Investments and the Department of Revenue. Businesses apply through their existing lender who will submit to the Board and DOR for review. Transparency efforts continue, and loan recipients are listed on the transparency website.

Another grant will allocate $530,000 of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to the Department of Commerce to continue census promotion and outreach. The new census deadline is October 31.

Four thousand five hundred tests have been completed at long-term and assisted living facilities with no confirmed positives. Last week, 11,229 tests were completed as the state works toward the 15,000 tests per week goal. Community testing events in several communities will be offered in the coming weeks.

Sixty-nine new cases were documented over the past seven days. “There is a combination of factors attributed to an increasing number of cases. Some of the clusters of cases involved close associations and have been identified through enhanced testing and local contact tracing efforts,” Gov. Bullock said, and described this as good news as cases may be identified earlier, leading to steps to prevent further transmission or to slow the spread.

All close contacts to a positive case are being tested, not just symptomatic persons. The potential to capture more positive cases from contact with a positive individual exists as testing has increased, Gov. Bullock said, but he expressed concern about community acquired cases, cases where the source is difficult to find or where cases resulted from travel.

Positive case counts in visitors from outside Montana are included in their area of origin, but the state will be sharing if a positive case is confirmed via an out of state visitor. These cases will not be included in Montana’s total case count.

An outbreak in Big Horn County and on the Crow Reservation includes cases identified through recent community screening events. Forty-nine cases and three deaths have been identified in Big Horn County. “The experience of Big Horn County should be instructive to all of us. And that is any area of the state is still vulnerable to an outbreak and to a loss of life,” Gov. Bullock said.

He encouraged Montanans to make mask wearing where social distancing is not possible a norm. “Studies show the widespread wearing of masks in community settings can significantly reduce the incidence of coronavirus cases. The mask shouldn’t be a political or ideological thing. Remember that people may spread the virus before they even show symptoms.”

Cases in Gallatin County do not appear to be influenced by out of state visitors, but were more likely acquired through clusters, mainly in households or social groups, Gov. Bullock said, and there is some evidence of community transmission. As of today, Gallatin County has a total of 191 cases, Montana 630.

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