Credit: Eliza Wiley/MTFP

HELENA — Gov. Greg Gianforte has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Monday evening announcement by his office.

The result comes four days after Gianforte received his initial dose of the vaccine. He first started experiencing “mild symptoms” on Sunday, according to the announcement. After being tested Monday in Gallatin County and receiving a positive result, the governor and first lady Susan Gianforte, who tested positive on Tuesday, are isolating at their residence in Bozeman.

The governor’s press office did not announce any publicly scheduled events on Monday and said all further public events have been cancelled until further notice.

Gianforte’s staff did not release public schedules for the governor over the weekend or on Friday. A spokeswoman for the governor later confirmed to Montana Free Press that he had attended church services at Grace Bible Church in Bozeman for Easter Sunday, but said he was asymptomatic, wore a mask and “had no close contacts” there besides members of his family. 

The spokeswoman, Brooke Stroyke, also said that Gianforte has not held public events since Thursday evening and has since been “in close contact with one staff member, a member of his protective detail, family members, and friends who he had dinner with.” Stroyke said that none of the people with whom Gianforte had dinner were elected officials or government employees. 

People who are positive for COVID-19 can carry and spread the virus before showing symptoms up to ten days beforehand. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have instructed anyone who has been a close contact of someone with the virus to quarantine for fourteen days after the exposure.

Asked when Gianforte was last tested for COVID-19, Stroyke said only that the governor and his staff are tested “regularly.” No other staff members have so far been reported to show symptoms.

Gianforte, who will turn 60 this month, has held many in-person events in the last two weeks. On Thursday, April 1, Gianforte received his first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Walgreens pharmacy in Helena. While he interacted with staff members there, photos of the event show Gianforte wearing a mask.

Later that day, Gianforte traveled to St. James Healthcare in Butte to celebrate the 500,000th dose of the vaccine administered in Montana. Video of the event also showed Gianforte wearing a mask inside the clinic, while a photo of the outdoor press conference shows an unmasked Gianforte standing near clinic manager Risik Rask.

On March 25, Gianforte met with disabled veterans in the Capitol building. According to a photo posted on his Twitter account, the attendees were in close proximity and unmasked.

Since he took office, Gianforte has consistently encouraged Montanans to take safety precautions, including mask wearing, and to sign up for the vaccine as soon as it becomes available. Citing increased vaccinations and lower case numbers, Gianforte repealed the statewide mask mandate in February. 

The governor intends to isolate for 10 days, following recommendations from his doctor. He has notified people with whom he’s been in close contact, according to his office’s press release. His staff plans to be tested on Tuesday.

UPDATED TUESDAY, APRIL 6:

Montana’s first lady has also tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement from the governor’s spokeswoman.

Since receiving her test results on Tuesday, Susan Gianforte has remained asymptomatic. The governor continues to show mild symptoms, including fatigue, “but otherwise feels okay,” said Brooke Stroyke in an email to Montana Free Press. The couple remains in isolation at their Bozeman home.

As of Tuesday, none of the governor’s close contacts or staff members have exhibited symptoms or received a positive test, Stroyke said. Twenty-five members of the governor’s office staff were tested Tuesday morning and received negative results. 

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Mara covers Montana’s social welfare and criminal justice systems, including public health matters such as substance use disorders and mental health care. She also tracks policy and social issues that affect LGBTQ+ people. Prior to joining Montana Free Press, Mara worked at Slate and WNYC, where she focused on radio and podcasts. She got her start in audio journalism as an intern at Montana Public Radio. Contact Mara at msilvers@montanafreepress.org, 406-465-3386 ext. 3, and follow her on Twitter.