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Bullock discusses increase of COVID-19 testing

Governor discusses outcry over George Floyd death

 


Gov. Steve Bullock said during a press conference Monday that a spike in confirmed cases of COVID-19 — the state had 44 new cases listed this morning from a week ago, with four new cases confirmed in this morning’s report — largely comes from an increase of testing in the state.

Bullock said the confirmations are allowing the state to isolate people and trace their contacts, looking to identify and treat more positive cases. But, he and other state officials added, they show the extreme need for precautions moving forward.

Bullock also responded to a question about President Donald Trump Monday calling the nation’s governor’s weak in their response to public outcry over the death by George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis May 25, which is causing protests and riots across the country.

Bullock said that as the unrest continues, everyone must consider what message they send with their actions.

“We need to make sure that our leaders are bringing us together as a nation, certainly not adding further division,” he said.

“We need to always act as if our children are watching and learning from our words and our deeds,” Bullock added.

“What we need to recognize is that many people across the country, and many Montanans, are in pain and we need to protect avenues for those people to use their first amendment rights,” he said, “Doing so can be done lawfully and peacefully… We need to work toward a nation where no one lives in fear of being treated unjustly by the very people are supposed to protect them.”

Bullock said that, in his career, he’s worked with amazingly talented law enforcement officers and officials of great integrity, but that not all officers have lived up to that ideal.

“We know across the country not every peace officer holds up that standard, and the death of George Floyd is another reminder that there are systemic issues in this country that need to be addressed,” he said.

Bullock added that he was pleased with the by-and-large peaceful protests that have happened in Montana.

A peaceful march was held in Havre Sunday on the issue.

Mass testing finding COVID-19 cases

Bullock said many of the new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Montana counties were found because of drive-through testing events held in those counties, or through subsequent contact tracing.

State Medical Officer Greg Holzman said investigations are still on-going, but so far all the new cases in the state are connected to two clusters in Big Horn and Yellowstone counties.

He said because the origins of every positive test are known, there has been no community spread, but that the state is going to try to stay on top of the situation through continued contact tracing.

“For every positive case in Montana, there isn’t one where we haven’t been able to identify where that positive transmission came from,” he said.

Bullock said these recent clusters have not given him pause about the state proceeding into a Phase Two of re-opening, but they are cause for caution on the part of all Montanans.

“This underscores that this kind of outbreak can happen in any of our communities if we are not very, very careful,” he said.

Bullock also asked that visitors to the state take the pandemic as seriously as Montanans do, as the 14-day quarantine has been lifted making travel into Montana easier.

Communicable Disease Bureau Chief Jim Murphy said these outbreaks demonstrate some of the challenges to isolation and quarantine in tribal environments and these clusters are probably not the last Montana will see during the pandemic.

He said more data on county-by-county test numbers will be available by the end of the week.

Holzman said these clusters will probably not be the end for Montana going forward.

“I would love to say that these are the only outbreaks that we’re going to see,” he said. “But to be realistic I think we’ll see more of this type of thing.”

Holzman encouraged people to continue things like frequent hand washing, social distancing and avoiding crowded events.

“When you’re in those groups… that doesn’t mean that all those people have to intermingle, you should still be using all of the social distancing in the areas that we can,” he said. “And if we do that I think we can keep this at a minimal level.”

Holzman also encouraged anyone looking for help testing local prison populations to get in contact with the governor’s office.

“We have a lot more testing equipment and testing available and we will work with anybody and any person to help them do some testing in their communities,” he said.

 

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