The latest numbers
As of Sunday, April 25, the state reports that 682,815 doses of vaccine have been administered in Montana, and 304,090 Montanans have been fully immunized. The state has reported a cumulative total of 108,097 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 51 new cases since yesterday, 995 active cases, and 105,539 people considered recovered. State officials also report that 4,963 of the cases have resulted in hospitalizations, with 49 patients currently hospitalized. There have been 1,563 Montana deaths attributed to the disease. The state’s official dashboard is here, and more information on the numbers reported by the state is here.
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Montana to enter phase two of reopening
Montana will lift its 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travelers as the state transitions to phase two of the Reopening the Big Sky plan on June 1, Gov. Steve Bullock announced Tuesday.
Lifting the quarantine will coincide with a likely June 1 opening of Montana’s gates to Yellowstone National Park in West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cooke City, Bullock said. Yellowstone’s Wyoming gates opened to travelers on Monday, May 18.
Under phase two, gathering may expand to 50 people, restaurants and bars can expand to 75% capacity, and gyms, pools and hot tubs can re-open. Bullock said the state is prepared to transition to phase two because of the limited number of active COVID-19 cases in Montana and enhanced contact tracing and testing capacity.
Bozeman man ticketed, turned away from Cooke City
A Bozeman man was ticketed Friday for traveling through the northern gate at Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner in an attempt to reach Cooke City.
Tyler Vance was charged with a misdemeanor for violating a “health and safety closure order.” The ticket is time-stamped 7:37 p.m. Vance posted several videos of the interaction on Friday, including one that shows him driving through the northern gate, a 14-minute Facebook Live video that shows him being pulled over and handcuffed by Yellowstone park rangers, and a video that shows him driving home after the interaction.
State ramps up COVID-19 testing in correctional facilities
Criminal justice advocates continue to urge expedited release.
Hundreds more people in Montana’s prisons and correctional facilities will have access to coronavirus testing starting today, a significant increase from the total of 31 inmates and offenders that have received a test so far.
The state Department of Corrections said this week that 772 tests per month will be available for inmates and staff who are asymptomatic. That’s in addition to diagnostic testing for anyone exhibiting symptoms, according to spokeswoman Carolynn Bright, which is the policy DOC said it has so far followed in accordance with CDC guidelines.
To date, three DOC and contract staff have tested positive for COVID-19, in addition to two people at the Gallatin County Detention Center.
How Montana’s 2020 census became “an uphill climb while it’s hailing basketballs.”
Since February, Tylyn Newcomb has been losing sleep over a seemingly herculean task: how to ensure the government counts as many Montana residents as possible for the 2020 census, and, in doing so, generate fair federal funding and electoral representation for the next decade.
“I mean, it’s vital work,” said Newcomb, one of the lead staffers focused on census outreach and grant funding for the Montana Nonprofit Association. “And so we don’t have the option to just give up and say it’s too hard, there’s too many barriers.”
For Newcomb and other nonprofit and state employees, preparing for an accurate federal census count in Montana has been equivalent to training for a grueling race. The hurdles include many of the state’s quintessential characteristics: a substantial rural population spread out over a vast geographic area, a widespread lack of city-style mailing addresses, and the frustration of unreliable internet access. All of those factors were present before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted basic civic and…