Montana lands $5M from CDC to enhance testing as it begins phased reopening

Montana received a funding boost from the Centers for Disease Control on Thursday to enhance its testing capabilities as it prepares for a phased reopening and works to reboot its economy.

Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines said the state will receive $5 million in funding earmarked for enhanced contact tracing and testing, and to protect vulnerable populations and high risk individuals.

Gov. Steve Bullock laid out his plans for the phased approach this week. The state’s stay-at-home order will expire Sunday and some Main Street businesses will reopen on Monday. Others will follow shortly after.

At the University of Montana on Thursday, Daines said it was time to reopen the state. He serves as a member of President Donald Trump’s bipartisan task force to reopen America.

“We’ve seen a decline in the infection rate, so that’s good news. We’re not seeing our hospitals overwhelmed in Montana with patients with COVID-19,” Daines said. “The challenge is that we have 80,000 Montanans who are unemployed, so it’s time to safety reopen Montana to move forward.”

The funding announced Thursday was included in the recently passed coronavirus relief package, which won support from both Montana senators after an agreement was reached between parties.

As Montana works to reopen its economy, Tester said, it will need the ability to test on a wider scale.

“In order for Montana to slow the spread of this virus and start to safely reopen our economy, we need to test, test, test,” Tester said in a statement. “This money is a good start, but the fact is the federal government needs to do a lot more to address the vast shortages of testing resources and critical protective equipment going to the states.”