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Gianforte looks to protect vulnerable populations while reopening state’s economy

Governor-elect Greg Gianforte said he will wait for recommendations from his COVID-19 Task Force before providing more details about his plans for state action on the coronavirus.

(KPAX) HELENA — It’s been one month since U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte became Montana’s governor-elect, and there is one month left until his inauguration.

On Friday, the Bozeman Republican said he’s encouraged with how the transition has gone so far.

“We’re building a great team, have rolled up our sleeves, and are already working for Montanans,” he said.

Gianforte held a news conference through Zoom, his first since the transition began. In it, he made clear COVID-19 will still have to be a major focus of his administration.

“We have to recognize we’re in the midst of a public health crisis,” he said. “The trends right now are alarming, and it’s clear we need to get a better handle on this virus.”

Gianforte said he will wait for recommendations from his COVID-19 Task Force before providing more details about his plans for state action on the coronavirus.

However, he again emphasized his priority will be protecting people in vulnerable populations, but reopening Montana’s economy.

He said he is optimistic about the progress toward vaccines, but that people should realize it will be some time before they’re widely available in the state.

“In the meantime, I encourage Montanans to take care of their loved ones and neighbors, and to protect their health and well-being,” he said. “I trust Montanans to do what’s right. I choose to wear a mask, and I encourage others to do the same.”

Gianforte said he will be spending the next few weeks working on policy plans and considering hundreds of individuals who submitted credentials to join his administration.

He has already filled positions like chief of staff, budget director, and general counsel.

Gianforte said he has spoken to many legislators of both parties since being elected.

“My message was clear: I look forward to working together for the benefit of all Montanans,” he said. “Across the board, there is an enthusiasm to produce better outcomes.”

The Montana Legislature’s Joint Rules Committee will meet next week to discuss possible options on how the upcoming legislative session will be run.

Gianforte said it will be up to lawmakers to make that decision, but that he believes the Legislature can balance doing the people’s work with keeping staff, the public, and others safe.

Gianforte will still be representing Montana in the U.S. House for another month. He said Friday that he expects a new COVID relief package will reach the House floor before the end of the session, but he does not know what it will look like.