Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has tested positive for COVID-19, according to local outlet KULR-8. The governor’s wife is reportedly awaiting test results, and the two are quarantining for 10 days, according to the report.
Gianforte, a Republican governor, had dropped Montana’s mask mandate on February 12, and he loosened restrictions on businesses in recent months.
“Twenty years ago in Montana, meth was homemade. It was homegrown. And it had purity levels less than 30 percent,” Daines said.
“Today, the meth that is getting into Montana is Mexican cartel. It has purities north of 95 percent. Far more dangerous, far more addictive, and it’s less expensive because they’re producing so much of it and then shipping it into our country,” he continued.
Daines had made similar comments earlier in the week to local outlet KTVQ ahead of the border trip. He has also said heroin and fentanyl from Mexico have flooded into Montana and that the surge of migrants prevents border patrol agents from focusing on drug traffickers.
Street-level meth in the US has become purer in recent decades, in part driven by drugs produced in labs in Mexico, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn hosted the trip, which included Sens. Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton, and Chuck Grassley, among others. The group of 18 GOP senators visited locations in the Rio Grande Valley with Customs and Border Patrol agents.
Though wolves inside Yellowstone are protected from hunters, Montana law does allow for the trapping and hunting of wolves in other parts of the state, including those that wander out of the park’s boundaries.
But Gianforte harvested the wolf, known as “1155,” without having completed a state-mandated wolf trapping certification course, Boise State Public Radio reported.
“After learning he had not completed the wolf-trapping certification, Governor Gianforte immediately rectified the mistake and enrolled in the wolf-trapping certification course. The governor had all other proper licenses,” Gianforte’s spokesperson told The Hill.
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks gave the governor a written warning and said Gianforte will be allowed to keep the wolf skull and hide after he enrolled in the three-hour online course scheduled for March 24, the outlet reported.
“Typically, we approach this sort of incident as an educational opportunity, particularly when the person in question is forthright in what happened and honest about the circumstances,” Greg Lemon, a spokesperson for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks told Boise Public Radio. “That was the case here with Gov. Gianforte.”
As governor, Gianforte is responsible for overseeing Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
Wolf “1155” was born in Yellowstone as part of the Wapiti Lake pack and had wandered north to find a mate, a park spokesperson told Boise Public Radio. Wildlife biologists were tracking the “dispersed male” through a radio collar, which allows scientists to note the movements and deaths of wolves that leave the park.
As of January 2020, there were at least 94 wolves in Yellowstone, according to National Park Services data. A park spokesman told Boise Public Radio this was the first Yellowstone-collared wolf to be killed by a hunter this year.
“People from all over the world come to Yellowstone specifically to see these wolves,” Jonathan Proctor, director of the Rockies and Plains program for the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife told the outlet. “The fact that they can be killed so easily, right on the edge of the park in the state of Montana, for only a few dollars for a permit to trap a wolf – it makes no sense, either ecologically or economically.”
In recent months, Montana and other states in the West have seen fierce debate over the role trapping can play in managing increasing wolf populations nearly a decade after wolves lost Endangered Species Act protections in the Northern Rockies, Boise Public Radio reported.
This isn’t the first time Gianforte has found himself in trouble with the law. In 2017, the Republican governor pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after body-slamming a reporter for The Guardian.
Insider reached out to Gianforte’s office and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks for comment.
As a result, companies are gearing up for this potential boom, including Southwest Airlines. In the last year, Southwest has dramatically expanded its flight offerings with new services to locations like Palm Springs, California, Cozumel, Mexico, and Miami.
Now, the airline has added additional flights to two travel hotspots: Florida and Bozeman, Montana.
Bozeman, Montana – known as “Boz Angeles” – has become a hot destination, especially for wealthier travelers looking to trade city life for a break in nature. Bozeman also been named one of the fastest-growing cities in the US and offers close access to hotspots like Yellowstone National Park.
This will be Southwest Airline’s first destination in Montana. Flights to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport will take off from airports in Denver and Las Vegas starting at $40 beginning May 27.
On the opposite end of the climate spectrum, Florida has also emerged as a top travel destination during the COVID-19 pandemic due to its warm weather and more relaxed restrictions. Southwest already flies to 10 other airports in Florida but decided to expand its offerings in the state for “winter-weary families” looking to get away to warm destinations, Andrew Watterson, Southwest Airlines’ executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said in the press release.
Direct Southwest flights to Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport can be taken starting May 6 from these four airports: Dallas Love Field, Baltimore/Washington, Nashville, and Chicago Midway, the latter starting June 6. These flights will start at $70.
“At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, said. “Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”
Texas isn’t the only place in the US easing restrictions. Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan, as well as Chicago and San Francisco, all made announcements to ease restrictions on Tuesday, though the details varied.
Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, and Mississippi have already waived mask-wearing restrictions, and Michigan has eased other lockdown restrictions. Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have not enforced state-wide mask mandates throughout the pandemic.
In Florida and South Dakota, schools and businesses have been widely open for months.
More than 35 US states have kept their mask-wearing rules in place, albeit with variable enforcement.
Here is how some other states, as well as some cities, are easing their restrictions.
Chicago announced Tuesday that hospitality, sports, and performance venues could increase to 50% capacity, up from 40%. The maximum number of people is 50, or 20 people for indoor fitness classes. Curfews were also extended. The changes were effective as of Tuesday.
Mayor London Breed of San Francisco said Tuesday that indoor dining, indoor fitness, museums, and movie theaters would be allowed to reopen Wednesday at limited capacity.
Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said on Tuesday that starting Wednesday, businesses could operate at 75% capacity, except in indoor event halls, which were limited to 50% capacity at a maximum of 250 people.
Live music could also resume indoors. He said that the state’s mask mandate would continue, and the new rules would remain in place for at least 28 days, until March 31.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan announced easing of restrictions on Tuesday, set to take effect on Friday.
Restaurants would be able to operate at 50% capacity – increased from 25% – and retail, entertainment, and sports facilities could open at increased capacity, she said. People can also visit a nursing home after a negative COVID-19 test.
Michigan has a state-wide mask-mandate, and Whitmer said mask-wearing, social distancing, and washing hands was “more important than ever.”
Mississippi rescinded a state-wide mask order in September, but Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi said Tuesday that county-specific mandates would be lifted too. He also said that the only COVID-19 restrictions that would remain were a 50% cap on the number of people in indoor arenas, and that certain restrictions would remain in schools.
Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina eased restrictions starting February 26, lifting a curfew and allowing indoor venues to operate at limited capacity. There is still a mask mandate.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson on February 26 lifted capacity limits for bars, restaurants, gyms, and large venues. He said that the state’s mask mandate would remain in place until March, provided the number of cases and hospitalizations were low.
Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said February 25 that restaurants could open at full capacity – albeit with social distancing and table size and time restrictions – starting Monday.
Other venues could open at 50% capacity, with no more than 500 people allowed inside. A state-wide mask mandate is still in place.
Gov. Jay Inslee lifted restrictions for five counties in the state on February 14, and allowed restaurants to open up at 25% capacity.
Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa lifted restrictions February 5. Iowans no longer have to wear face coverings in public. Businesses can have as many people as they want inside and don’t have to abide social-distance guidelines.