Gov. Bullock

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock on March 12 announced an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Montana in response to the coronavirus.

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Gov. Steve Bullock has ordered landlords not to evict tenants and not to charge late fees or other penalties during his stay-at-home order.

Bullock’s announcement, which came during a press call Tuesday afternoon, also prevents foreclosures and fines due to missing or late mortgage payments.

The Democratic governor also directed businesses not to shut off utilities including electric, gas, water, sewer and internet services until the stay-at-home order is lifted on April 10. Many utility providers in the state had already announced they wouldn’t shut off service due to the new coronavirus.

“One of my top priorities is continuing to find ways to ease the financial hardships on Montanans,” Bullock said. “So long as this virus forces Montanans to stay home to save lives, Montanans need a home to stay in.”

Bullock also announced Montana’s fifth death from COVID-19. No additional information on the death was immediately available.

The first four deaths all came in the last week. They are two Toole County residents, a Madison County resident and a man in Lincoln County.

“Montana really is one big small town, and these losses of life impact us all no matter in which community we might live,” Bullock said.

He said most people have had mild symptoms and that 32 people who have tested positive in the state have recovered. Seventeen people were hospitalized with the illness as of Wednesday morning.

Gallatin County continues to have the highest number of cases in the state. The county’s total was at 76 as of Wednesday morning. 

The second-highest number of cases continues to be in Yellowstone County where 32 people had tested positive for COVID-19.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 208 confirmed cases statewide. 

Also on Tuesday, Bullock announced financial assistance to help hospitals stay open and purchase medical supplies. He said some hospitals have experienced a drop in revenue because they have canceled some scheduled procedures and have postponed appointments. At the same time, hospitals have seen rising expenses as they struggle to obtain supplies to fight the novel coronavirus.

He acknowledged that some federal money will be available from the stimulus package recently passed by Congress but that those dollars may take a while to reach Montana.

On Monday, Bullock ordered anyone who enters Montana from another state or country to self-quarantine for two weeks. He has since dispatched the National Guard to airports and railroad stations to screen passengers for potential exposure to COVID-19.

This story was updated Wednesday morning with new testing numbers.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.