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Montana posted 196 newly-confirmed cases of COVID-19 early Thursday, with Cascade and Glacier counties adding nine reports.

Chouteau and Hill counties added three and Liberty and Toole counties each had one, according to the state’s website, covid19.mt.gov.

The state is using this promotion to remind people to wear a mask. (Photo: STATE OF MONTANA)

Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday announced outbreak response protocols to help kindergarten through 12th grade schools as they deal with COVID-19 cases.

According to a news release from the governor’s office, this plan includes information on COVID-19 symptoms, “when to call for emergency care, determining close contacts, when to quarantine, isolate, and recommend testing, and when to allow students and staff to return to school.”

It includes advice on when to involve local public health officials, how to screen symptomatic students and staff to determine if testing or isolation is appropriate, and guidance on athletics and extracurricular activities.

For students in athletics and extracurricular activities, “the guidance recommends hand sanitizing, wearing face coverings when appropriate and prioritizing activities where physical distancing can be maintained,” the state said.

An athlete who tests positive should be cleared by a health care provider before resuming participation, the guidelines state. Schools should have plans in place for isolation, treatment, and proper transportation for a visiting traveling athlete, extracurricular activity participant, or staff who develops COVID-19 symptoms.

Bullock said this guidance was requested by school nurses and others in education to ensure schools are responding to COVID-19 consistently and using measures backed by science.

He said it is based on an plan put together by Rhode Island and includes information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said in his news release he brought together public health experts to develop the protocols after school nurses and education advocates requested guidance.  

The state has now had 8,663 total confirmed reports of the respiratory illness. Of those, 6,732 have recovered, 1,808 remain active and 163 people are hospitalized out of 512 total hospitalizations.

There have been 273,353 tests administered, which is 2,203 more than Wednesday when 90 COVID-19 cases and three deaths were reported.

Cascade County’s cases include two men in their 30s, a man and woman in their 40s, three men in their 50s and two men in their 70s. Cascade County now has 133 active cases, 253 recoveries and five deaths.

Glacier County now has 25 active cases, 131 recoveries and one death. Its new reports listed a woman who is 100, but officials said that was in error they had planned to correct. The other cases involved a female under 19, a man in his 20s, three men and a woman in their 30s, a man in his 40s and a woman in her 50s.

Chouteau County’s three new cases are a male and female under 19 and a woman in her 40s. The county now has five active cases and three recoveries.

Hill County’s three reports are a male under 19, a man in his 40s and a woman in her 60s. Hill County now has 29 active cases, 73 recoveries and two deaths.

Liberty County’s latest case was a woman in her 60s. Liberty County has six active cases and five recoveries. 

The Montana Department of Labor & Industry said Wednesday the U.S. Department of Labor and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will not approve funding for the Lost Wages Assistance program beyond the Unemployment Insurance benefit week ending Sept. 5.

DLI began issuing $400 weekly payments to eligible claimants on Aug. 26. FEMA funded $300 of the weekly payment and Montana contributed another $100 from its CARES Act relief funds. At the program’s conclusion, DLI estimates total LWA payments to jobless Montanans will be about $59 million, officials said.

LWA payments were authorized by FEMA on a week-to-week basis.

Montana was awarded Lost Wage Assistance funding in increments and was one of a few states to disperse the maximum $400 to claimants.

Lost Wages Assistance was established by Presidential Memorandum after Congress did not reauthorize the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provided an extra $600 weekly benefit to eligible UI claimants.

DLI said people who believe they may be eligible for UI to file a claim online at MontanaWorks.gov, or at mtpua.mt.gov for those that fall under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance eligibility guidelines. Those with benefits questions should go to dli.mt.gov/covid-19. 

Reporter Phil Drake is our eye on the state capitol. For tips, suggestions or comment, he can be reached at 406-231-9021 or pdrake@greatfallstribune.com. To support his work, subscribe today and get a special offer.

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