Impact of COVID-19 on Montanans

By | March 21, 2020

I want to update you on the actions I am taking to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Montanans. During this time challenging time, I appreciate your patience and your concerns as we act to ensure Montanans’ needs are met.

Both young and older Montanans, in urban and rural communities, have tested positive for coronavirus, making it even more clear that this virus impacts us all and these actions are imperative to protecting our friends and neighbors.

We face extraordinary health risks – and with it even further risks to our economic and social well-being – if we do not act now. I do not take these decisions lightly and they were done so in consultation with public health professionals. Montanans, too, need to take this seriously. It’s up to all of us to stop the spread of this virus.

I want to let you know the actions I have taken to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and the resources available to you and your family:

TRAVEL ADIVSORY: This week I issued a travel advisory for Montanans who have traveled internationally to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning to Montana. If you have traveled internationally, please self-quarantine for 14 days and contact your local health department HERE.

STATEWIDE CLOSURE OF HIGH-RISK BUSINESSES: On Friday, I announced measures to close dine-in food service and alcoholic beverage businesses and other activities that pose enhanced health risks, effective at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020. This Directive expires at 11:59 p.m. on March 27, 2020, the same day that school closures are set to expire, though the date will likely be extended.

Under the Directive, the following places are closed to use and occupancy by members of the public:

  • Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other similar establishments offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption.
  • Alcoholic beverage service businesses, including bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other establishments offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
  • Cigar bars.
  • Health clubs, health spas, gyms, aquatic centers, pools and hot springs, indoor facilities at ski areas, climbing gyms, fitness studios, and indoor recreational facilities.
  • Movie and performance theaters, nightclubs, concert halls, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and music halls.
  • Casinos.

TESTING ASSISTANCE: I have announced the State of Montana will pay for COVID-19 tests and treatment for all uninsured Montanans. State funds and potentially federal funds will be used to pay for testing and treatment beginning on March 23. Access to telemedicine services are also expanded to ensure Medicaid patients receive quality health care in their homes to prevent unnecessary gatherings at health care facilities and slow the spread of COVID-19. To access this emergency assistance Montanans can call 406-444-7605 or email hhspresumptive@mt.gov.

UNEMPLOYMENT: This week, I announced emergency rules to make unemployment benefits accessible to workers laid off due to COVID-19 and waive the one week waiting period before receiving benefits. The rules will ensure that workers impacted by COVID-19, whether it’s because they’ve been laid off, are quarantined, or need to take care of a family member, can do so without worrying about how they will make ends meet during these difficult times.

Claimants are responsible for staying in contact with their employer and return to work when they have the opportunity. People who are eligible for these benefits can apply online at: www.montanaworks.gov or contact the Unemployment Insurance Division over the phone at: (406) 444-2545.

MONTANA TAX FILING EXTENTION TO JULY 15TH: On Friday, I extended the payment and filing deadlines for 2019 individual income taxpayers to July 15 in accordance with the new federal filing deadline. The deadline for those making estimated tax payments for the first quarter of 2020 has also been extended to July 15. The due date for the second quarter remains July 15 at this time. Tax resources are available at: https://mtrevenue.gov/taxes/

SOCIAL DISTANCING: We face the potential for extraordinary health risks from coronavirus in our state. Social distancing is one of the most important primary protective measures to flatten the curve of this virus. I cannot underscore the seriousness of following these measures to help our neighbors, friends, and families.

If you have any symptoms, stay home. Call your doctor or local public health provider for consultation. Do not drive the doctor’s office or emergency room.

You can contact your local county or tribal health departments by finding their contact information through the online map HERE.

The Coronavirus Task Force has an informational phone line at 1-888-333-0461 and Montanans can also email questions to covid19info@mt.gov.

You can also find information on the Task Force actions at COVID19.mt.gov. You can also visit the DPHHS website at www.dphhs.mt.gov for the most up to date and timely health information related to the coronavirus.

Thank you again for your sacrifices and commitment to stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Montana.

It is helpful to hear from Montanans like you when I am making decisions about the future of our state. I understand these are challenging times and Montanans are facing many hardships. But, I have no doubt as Montanans, we can work together and overcome this challenge.

Sincerely,

STEVE BULLOCK
Governor

North Forkers Prepare to “Shelter in Place”

By | March 18, 2020

Here is a story from Debo Powers. And thanks to Chris Heitz for the photo

COVID-19 is now considered a global pandemic with cases rising exponentially around the world.  This disease can cause pneumonia and death and there is no vaccine against it and no cure.  People over 60 are most at risk.  There are probably many more infected with the virus in the U.S. than has been reported due to the lack of testing across the country.
In Montana, as in many states in the country, schools are closed and events have been cancelled in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus and avoid overwhelming our hospitals which is happening in Italy right now. 
The North Fork is a good place to isolate oneself and many North Forkers have prepared to “shelter in place” for the duration of the threat.  However, as North Forkers continue to travel and make trips to town, the chances increase that the virus will find its way to the North Fork.  Please exercise precaution when returning to the North Fork and delay getting together with friends and neighbors until you are certain you haven’t brought home a nasty souvenir.
North Forkers who have gone to town have reported empty grocery shelves and a long line at Costco as people stock up.
Below is the latest notice from Governor Bullock regarding the coronavirus.
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Message from Governor Bullock:
This week, I announced a set of directives and guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect vulnerable Montanans, including closing our public K-12 schools, adhering to social distancing, and limiting visitation at nursing home facilities.
I have directed Montana’s public K-12 schools to close starting March 16 until March 27. During this time, schools will engage in planning to provide arrangements to provide free meals to students who need them, pursuant to a waiver obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture, and to provide for all other matters and services that students need in the event of future or ongoing closure.
I recognize that our schools often serve as a lifeline for families and that this decision is going to have disruption on Montanans over the coming weeks. I’m committed to working with schools, communities and public health to minimize the impact. I encourage businesses to do everything they can to support families as well
 
I am strongly recommending that the public limits all gatherings, especially no more than 50 people, in every community across the state. I am also recommending that individuals over the age of 60 or who are immunocompromised or with chronic health conditions do not participate in gatherings of more than 20 people. I also recommend that parents should avoid, if possible, placing children for childcare with grandparents or individuals over the age of 60 or immunocompromised persons.
I have suspended visitation in Montana’s nursing homes except for certain compassionate care situations. People who meet the exception for visitation will undergo a screening to determine whether they have traveled in the last two weeks, are residing where community spread is occurring, or if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
As governor, it is my top priority to protect the health and safety of Montanans, particularly our most vulnerable, at a time when we face the potential for extraordinary health risks from coronavirus in our state. Social distancing is one of the most important primary protective measures to flatten the curve of this virus. I cannot underscore the seriousness of following these measures to help our neighbors, friends, and families.
If you have any symptoms, pick up the phone and call your doctor or local public health provider for consultation, instead of driving to the doctor’s office or emergency room.
You can contact your local county or tribal health departments by finding their contact information through the online map HERE.

The coronavirus Task Force has launched an informational phone line at 1-888-333-0461 and Montanans can also email questions to covid19info@mt.gov.

A website has also been set up to keep Montanans apprised of Task Force actions at COVID19.mt.gov. You can also visit the DPHHS website at www.dphhs.mt.gov for the most up to date and timely health information related to the coronavirus.
Remember the simple steps you can take:
·      Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or into your sleeve
·      Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds
·      Avoid touching your face
·      Stay home if you have cold or flu-like symptoms and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Thank you for making the tough, but correct decisions each and everyday. It’s going to take all of us working together to overcome these challenges and dynamic times. But as Montanans, I have no doubt that’s what we’ll do.
Sincerely,
STEVE BULLOCK
Governor

Forest Prepares Spring Prescribed Fire Projects

By | March 13, 2020

Kalispell, MT – Flathead National Forest is planning spring prescribed fire projects when weather and air quality are favorable. People can expect to see smoke in various places in the Flathead Valley depending on burn locations and weather conditions.

The Forest follows a prescribed burn plan for each project, designed to reduce the potential for an escaped wildland fire or other adverse effects like excessive smoke. Fire managers time the projects to comply with air quality standards and state and local regulations to reduce smoke impacts in surrounding communities. This spring’s project areas include:

Swan Lake Ranger District:

Huey Timber Sale – This project includes broadcast burning in timber harvest units in the Stoner Creek drainage near Blacktail Mountain, west of Lakeside, MT. The prescribed fire treatments will reduce fuels, regenerate vegetation and improve wildlife habitat.  

Louie Timber Sale – This project includes broadcast burning in timber harvest units in the Truman Creek drainage near Blacktail Mountain, south of Kila, MT and west of Lakeside, MT. Prescribed fire treatments will reduce fuels, regenerate vegetation and improve wildlife habitat.

How Now Timber Sale – This project includes broadcast burning in timber harvest units east of Swan Lake near Swan Lake, MT. Prescribed fire treatments will reduce fuels, regenerate vegetation and improve wildlife habitat.

Swan Valley Bottom Maintenance Burning – This project includes maintenance broadcast burning in previously treated timber harvest units in Swan Valley. Specific locations include the Lion Creek Drainage, and Meadow Creek area. Prescribed fire treatments will reduce fuels, improve large ungulate winter range, and improve forest health.

Swan Lake Ranger Station – This project includes under burning the administrative site at the Swan Lake Ranger District office located in Bigfork, MT. Prescribed fire treatments will reduce fuels and improve wildlife habitat.

Hungry Horse District: 

Coram Pasture- This project includes burning a 20-acre Forest Service administrative site near Martin City. The site is used for pasturing agency livestock. The project objectives are to reduce encroaching brush and saplings and improve range conditions.

Spotted Bear Ranger District:

Spotted Bear Ranger Station- This project includes burning 41 acres using hand ignition techniques around Spotted Bear Ranger Station to reduce fuels, improve winter range forage, reduce conifer encroachment, reintroduce fire into the ecosystem, and retain key thermal cover timber patches. Specific burn units include Silver Mule Units 45, 53, and 53a.

People who want more information about these projects should contact the appropriate ranger station:

Hungry Horse/Glacier View Ranger District: 406-387-3800

Tally Lake Ranger District: 406-758-5204

Swan Lake Ranger District: 406-837-7500

Spotted Bear Ranger District: 406-758-5376

Early Warm Weather Brings Muddy Spring Road Conditions and Damage

By | March 12, 2020

Kalispell, MT – Snow and ice melt are creating muddy conditions on many Flathead National Forest roads.

People planning on driving in the forest should use caution and plan on turning around if they find soft roads. Motorists may encounter roads that the forest has temporarily closed to prevent damage. It’s also important for people to use good judgement if they find an open road that seems too wet for travel.

Traveling on soft roadbeds can lead to expensive repairs and longer-term closures to fix problems.

This winter has been the third warmest on record in lower elevation areas around Flathead Valley. Though snowfall has been average, warm temperatures are causing snow and ice to melt faster, and people may be surprised to find conditions they typically see later in the spring prevalent at this time of year.

Some Flathead National Forest roads are already developing deep ruts. The forest typically suspends all hauling operations at this time of year to protect soft roads from commercial loads.

For updated information about Flathead National Forest temporary road restrictions, contact the appropriate Ranger District listed on the forest’s website.

A Moment in the North Fork Winter

By | March 3, 2020

Keeping that campfire theme going… here’s a note from Bill Smith: We enjoyed the image of a spring campfire on NFNews. It seems we weren’t the only folks digging out the fire pit! LOL Dan Jacobson and Bill Smith on Moose Creek say hi.

 

Here’s a photo sent to us by Suzanne Daniel. Just about perfect.

North Valley Rescue conducting training on Saturday, Feb. 29

By | February 26, 2020

Following is a note from Mark Heaphy…

This Saturday, February 29th, members of North Valley Rescue will be conducting training in the vicinity of Trail Creek/Kintla Ranch. The Two Bear Air helicopter will be in the area for about 1-1/2 hours in the morning if weather and conditions permit.

If you have any questions, please contact Mark at 406-890-5043 or m-mheaphy@hotmail.com.

2020 Winter Ball

By | February 16, 2020

The 2020 Winter Ball held on Valentine’s Day at Sondreson Hall was a great success. Thanks to everyone who worked hard to make it possible. An additional thanks to all the folks who came. Finally, a big thanks to Representative Debo Powers for all the dance lessons! Here are some photos that Kenna Halsey shared.

Want to see photos from Balls of Winter’s past? Tap here for a page that will take you to all of the Winter Balls.

Don’t forget that you can tap on any photo to start a slide show.

Last dance class before the Winter Ball

By | February 7, 2020

Hello NF Dancers!

Our last dance class before the Winter Ball is Sunday, February 9 at 6:00 at the Hall.  The Winter Ball is on Friday, February 14 at 7:00.

Inexpensive ball gowns ($5-10) are available at the thrift store on the right as you enter Columbia Falls (before the Post Office), but they are only open on Tuesday and Thursday…..They have put their dresses out early because of the NF Winter Ball!

Debo