Governor Steve Bullock and State Health Officer Greg Holzman held a telephone press conference on Saturday afternoon to discuss the first four confirmed coronavirus cases in the state.

"Montana is reporting five new cases, including that part time resident who had not been in the state at the time of their exposure or their diagnosis,” said Holzman from the governor’s office in Helena. “Local public health agencies are continuing to investigate the four new cases that were reported that night, and early information is very encouraging. All cases appear to have acquired the infection outside of Montana, and none have required hospitalization to date.”

Holzman described each case reported so far.

“The first is a male in his 40’s from Gallatin County,” he said. “He is not hospitalized and he had traveled internationally. Case two is a female in her 50’s from Yellowstone County. She was not hospitalized and also had traveled internationally. The third case is a male from Broadwater County and had traveled domestically in an area that we know has person to person spread of COVID 19. Case four is a male in his 50’s from Silver Bow County and he was not hospitalized and he also traveled domestically in an area that we know has person to person transmission.”

Holzman later confirmed that both patients three and four had traveled in Washington State before being infected.

A question was raised about the method used to perform trace back investigations on each confirmed case. Dr. Holzman described the step by step process.

“We start doing trace back of anybody who had been in contact with that person,” he said. “If anybody is having any kind of symptoms and then those people would be tested. If there are no symptoms, then they would be put in quarantine for fourteen days. Isolation means that the person is sick and being isolated, while quarantine means a person does not have any symptoms but still has a high risk exposure.”
As of the time of this press conference, Governor Bullock said there are 850 test kits available with more on the way, and that there are no issues with getting more test kits if they are required.

The state lab is performing testing and disclosing results today (Saturday) and will be performing testing 7 days a week starting Monday.

Starting Monday, the Task Force is standing up a State Emergency Coordination Center – a multi-disciplinary team that will report directly to General Quinn and will be on full-time duty to bolster response efforts. The team will be located at Fort Harrison in a centralized location.

Governor Bullock was asked about his biggest concern for Montana as the pandemic moved into the state.

“We have to recognize that those who are 70, those who are medically frail, those are the ones most susceptible to mortality,” said Bullock. “This is a challenging and sometimes a scary time for a lot of people, so let’s recognize who’s most at risk, and even if we can’t contain those risks to mitigate them. Let’s all try as Montanans to work constructively together as we have in the past. I’ve said more times than I’ve wanted that this is a dynamic situation and will continue to be so, but more than anything, we look at both the contagion and its spread that we’ve got to take care of our legacy Montanans at each and every step.”

Governor Bullock announced a statewide DPHHS hotline as 1-888-333-0461, and the new coronavirus website at covid19 info at mt.gov.