At a press conference in Helena this week, Governor Steve Bullock turned the floor over to the State Medical Director Dr. Greg Holzman, and the Chief Epidemiologist Stacey Anderson.

Holzman pointed out that to fight the virus effectively, all Montanans must work together.

“To fight a highly infectious respiratory disease in our communities, we need a coordinated response,” said Dr. Holzman. “While many Montanans are following the public health guidance, too many individuals are not. Now, in Montana as the governor highlighted, our hospitals are becoming overburdened, and this is happening due to the massive number of individuals who are becoming infected with COVID-19.”

Dr. Holzman said that as of this month, COVID 19 has become the fourth leading cause of death in Montana.

Dr. Holzman said even Montana’s children are being affected.

“Currently we're investigating three cases of individuals with possible multi- inflammatory syndrome in children,” he said. “Thus, with the wide spread of this novel coronavirus within our communities and the significant percentage of individuals needing advanced care, the current stress on our public health and healthcare system right now is real.”

The state’s chief epidemiologist, Stacey Anderson provided advice for individuals and families who are planning family gatherings for the holidays.

“Think about things you can do to reduce your risk,” said Anderson. “Limit your Thanksgiving celebrations to the people that you're around all of the time anyway, your household members, your close family members who would be considered your close contacts if you were diagnosed with COVID-19. You can also gather virtually. I know a lot of us are really tired of ZOOM calls and ZOOM meetings but it is a safe way to see your loved ones and celebrate together safely.”

Anderson and Holzman both advised Montanans not to travel for the holidays, however, Anderson has advice for those who will choose to travel anyway.

“Some of you are still going to continue to go to events and travel, so here's some advice for that,” she said. “If you're traveling the season, wear a mask in public settings and wear it appropriately over your nose all the way under your chin. Try to maintain that six feet of distance from others when you're in public places. If you're in an airport, if you're in a restaurant, etc., try to keep that social distance between you and other people you don't know.”

Dr. Holzman said that as of this month, COVID 19 has become the fourth leading cause of death in Montana.