“Town Crier” newsletter – Briefs from the Region (2) – 4/17/20
On April 14, a group of Montana’s GOP leaders sent a letter to Gov. Steve Bullock criticizing his response to COVID-19 at the expense of the state’s economy. Bullock has since fired back, and on April 16 accused state Speaker of the House Greg Hertz and Senate President Scott Sales of “politicizing the pandemic.” To date, more than 86,000 Montanans have filed for unemployment payments, and the GOP has urged to “move toward restarting some facets of daily life and reopening businesses in areas of the state with no or fewer cases come as economic pressures from stay-at-home orders mount,” reports the Helena Independent Record. The governor has pointed to a decline in new cases and a low per-capita case rate to justify the stay-at-home directives, also citing a report from the University of Wyoming that social distancing will save more than 1 million lives and cause significantly less damage to the nation’s and state’s economy. “I’ve said before that I want to reopen our economy as much as anyone and have already begun to consult with public health officials and business leaders on what a responsible path forward could be,” Bullock wrote in his response letter. “But it would be irresponsible and potentially fatal to move too quickly and risk an unnecessary spike in cases and deaths of Montanans. We cannot risk becoming another hot spot like our neighbor South Dakota,” which had more than 1,300 cases as of April 16; critics cited Gov. Kristi Noem’s lax policies as a major contributing factor. The Republicans’ letter also criticized which workforces and industries Bullock has deemed “essential,” to which the incumbent, who terms out in January, said essentially follows recommendations from the Trump administration.