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HUNDREDS IN HELENA PROTEST COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

Around 600 people gathered outside the Capitol building in Helena on Sunday, April 19 to protest Gov. Steve Bullock’s stay-at-home order and COVID-19 restrictions, according to KRTV MTN News. Many protesters at the “Montana Liberty Rally” said the restrictions infringe on their constitutional rights. Several people brandished flags and signs with statements like “freedom not fear,” “all work is essential” and “open up now.” According to reporting from the Helena Independent Record, Helena Police Chief Steve Hagen said he didn’t believe everyone at the rally practiced social distancing, but none of the rally participants were cited. (MAZANA BOERBOOM)


BULLOCK ANNOUNCES CONDITIONS REQUIRED FOR ‘PHASED REOPENING’ AFTER APRIL 24

Gov. Steve Bullock announced April 17 that he and a Coronavirus Relief Task Force are formulating a tentative plan to reopen the state in phases after his stay-at-home directive expires April 24. “We have flattened the curve and we have saved lives,” Bullock stated in an email. “Because we acted early with input from public health and emergency response experts, Montana has a significantly lower rate of infection per capita than many of states that did not act as aggressively.” Bullock listed three conditions that must be in place for a reopening to occur. There must first be “a sustained reduction of new cases” in Montana for at least two weeks. In addition, hospitals must be equipped to treat all new patients, including those who have not contracted COVID-19. Last, state and local public health officials must be able to test all Montanans with symptoms of the virus and “conduct active monitoring of newly confirmed cases and their contacts,” Bullock stated. (HELENA DORE)


MONTANA INMATES MAKE PPE FOR HEALTHCARE
WORKERS

In an effort to help, inmate workers at the Montana Department of Corrections have been commissioned to make Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare workers. As of April 17, they have created around 5,300 cloth masks, 1,400 face shields, 350 shoe covers, 350 head covers, 400 gowns and 300 mask covers, according to a press release. As of April 20, there are 40 positive cases of COVID-19 with 26 recoveries and one death in Missoula County. In the entire state, there have been 433 confirmed cases, 243 recoveries and 10 deaths from the virus. The Missoula City-County Health Board passed a face cloth recommendation on April 16 to protect essential workers and the public who come into contact with each other. The Health Board hopes this recommendation will be widely accepted, but wearing a face mask is not a requirement. (DANIEL DUENSING)


MEN’S BASKETBALL PLAYER CAMERON PARKS TRANSFERS TO UM

Former Sacred Heart University guard Cameron Parker announced on April 18 he is transferring to play for UM. During the 2019-2020 season at Sacred Heart, Parker broke the NCAA record for assists in a game with 24 assists. He also had 16 assists in a different game, which was tied for second-highest in the NCAA in 2019. Parker is the second transfer to commit to Montana Men’s basketball in 2020. Northern Arizona guard Cameron Satterwhite committed to UM on April 1. Satterwhite will be immediately eligible to play for UM because he is a grad transfer. It is unknown whether Parker will have to sit out for a season. (JACK MARSHALL)


UM LAUNCHES INITIATIVE TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES RECOVER

The University of Montana’s Business Emergency Assistance and Recovery (B.E.A.R.) Initiative is connecting small businesses across Montana to the individuals, programs and organizations that can help them during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Missoula Small Business Development Center at UM is helping businesses access loans through the Small Business Administration or CARES Act. The Blackstone LaunchPad and Accelerate Montana Rural Innovation Initiative are also offering webinars and coaching sessions. So far, 25 businesses have used the B.E.A.R. Initiative program, according to an email sent to UM employees on April 20. (SYDNEY AKRIDGE)


M TRAIL ASSAULT UPDATE

The mother of two who survived an attack on the M Trail April 10th is receiving treatment at a Salt Lake City hospital. A Gofundme started to cover the cost of her injuries with a goal of $45,000 passed $50,000 April 20. Missoula prosecutors charged Jared Robert Kuntz with multiple felonies for assault after he allegedly attacked the woman, her son and two other hikers on the M Trial. Kuntz was booked into Missoula County Jail April 19 after receiving treatment for two stab wounds. Kuntz’ brother, Jacob Kuntz, published a message on Facebook April 14. He wrote that he and his family witnessed Kuntz’s mental health deteriorated during the month prior and called the Missoula Probation and Parole and Missoula police office to report his behavior. He also said he offered to drive his brother to the ER for mental health treatment, and he refused. “Our hearts go out to all the victims, their families, friends and the community of Missoula, MT for this truly senseless tragedy that could have been avoided,” he wrote. (PAUL HAMBY)


HOUSING ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE FOR MT FAMILIES

Some families who have suffered substantial financial hardship from COVID-19 are eligible for rental and security deposit assistance, Montana Public Radio reported. Applicants must have at least one child under the age of 18 and a substantial loss of income. The Montana Department of Commerce said applications should be reviewed within 5 to 10 days and once approved, the rental payment or deposit will be paid directly to the applicant’s landlord. Gov. Steve Bullock prohibited landlords from evicting tenants earlier this month but the Montana Landlord Association is working to overturn the directive. (CASSIDY ALEXANDER)


KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION UNCERTAIN

A federal judge canceled a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on April 15, but the ruling does not shut down work already in progress at the U.S.-Canada border crossing in Montana, the Associated Press reported. The hearing was part of an ongoing lawsuit the Fort Belknap Native community and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe brought against TC Energy and President Donald Trump. The tribes say the pipeline, which is expected to stretch 1,200 miles from Canada to Nebraska,

violates historic land rights and could bring coronavirus into the area with an influx of workers. The project to build the pipeline began less than two weeks ago and Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls said he will make a judgment about the pipeline’s construction in due time. (CASSIDY ALEXANDER)