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As COVID cases climb, Tester urges pause on evictions; Daines announces drug shipment

The number of fatalities in Montana due to COVID-19 grew to 39 on Monday as state health officials announced two more deaths in a Billings nursing home.

The state added 88 new cases on Monday, including four in Missoula, increasing the running tally to 2,621. More than 48 people remain hospitalized in the state and 1,248 cases are considered active.

“Two more Montanans have sadly passed from COVID-19. My heart goes out to their families and community,” Gov. Steve Bullock said. “As we continue to see the tragic situation unfold at Canyon Creek (Billings), I call on Montanans to keep their guard up. We do have the ability to fight this virus and can protect our loved ones by wearing a mask and socially distancing, especially around those who are high risk.”

Sen. John Tester also joined a number of colleagues in urging the Trump administration to enforce a ban on housing evictions during the pandemic, while Sen. Steve Daines said Montana will begin receiving doses of a new coronavirus drug.

Remdisivir was given emergency authorization by the FDA to treat certain patients hospitalizes with the virus. Daines said Montana will receive 24 cases, or 960 doses starting on Monday.

“These shipments of Remdisivir will help treat and support Montanans hospitalized with COVID-19,” Daines said. “I’ll continue working to ensure Montanans have access to all the critical resources needed as we combat this ongoing pandemic.”

As the case count continues to climb and the pandemic intensifies, Tester joined dozens of other senators in sending a letter to the Department of Housing and Urban Development urging Secretary Ben Carson and other administration officials to enforce a ban on housing evictions.

According to the letter, millions of Americans have been unable to keep up with monthly mortgage and rent payments due to loss of income relating to the pandemic and other setbacks.

“During this pandemic, when it is dangerous for individuals to even be required to appear in a court room, it is troubling that some renters have been unlawfully removed from their homes in violation of the clear protections of the CARES Act,” the letter states.

“As evictions continue to rise, more must be done to ensure these protections are adhered to and any violations are immediately addressed, otherwise the repercussions will be severely felt by millions of the most vulnerable Americans, including elderly and low-income renters and many essential workers.”

A recent Senate hearing revealed that communities in several states have allowed landlords to move forward with eviction proceedings, despite temporary protections for renters established under the CARES Act.

The letter suggests that roughly 32% percent of renters were unable to make their full housing payment this month.

“Given this reality, we are deeply concerned by reports that, despite a temporary federal ban on evictions to protect renters in federally-assisted properties, some tenants have been unlawfully evicted from their homes during the pandemic.