Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has tested positive for coronavirus, just days after receiving his first shot.
The governor’s office said in a statement released late on Monday that Gianforte experienced “mild symptoms” a day earlier and subsequently took a coronavirus test “out of an abundance of caution”.
The Republican governor received his first dose of the vaccine on April 1, the same day the state opened up eligibility to all adult residents. Montana was among the first 10 states to allow all adults to register for their first shot.
President Joe Biden will today urge states to open up vaccine eligibility to all adults by April 19, having previously set a target date of May 1.
On February 12, Gianforte lifted Montana’s mask mandate, which was put in place last July by his Democrat predecessor, Steve Bullock. Soon after assuming office in January, Gianforte promised to remove the statewide requirement once liability protections for businesses and healthcare providers were in place and vulnerable residents had begun receiving coronavirus vaccines.
Montana’s chief medical advisor on February 11, the day after Gianforte said conditions to remove the mask mandate had been met, announced he was resigning from a post. Dr Gregory Holzman did not say in his letter of resignation whether the move was connected to the lifting of the face covering requirement, local media reported at the time.
The state’s vaccine rollout is among the better progressed in the US. One-third of its just-over-1m residents have received at least one vaccine dose, which ranks equal-26th among states, according to data on Monday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has fully vaccinated 21.6 per cent of its population, the equal-11th-highest proportion in the US, and compared to the state average of 19.7 per cent.
Over the past seven days, Montana has averaged about 95 new infections per 100,000 people, according to CDC data. That is the 30th-highest rate in the US and compares to the average rate among all states of about 131 new infections per 100,000 people a day.
Gianforte will isolate at home for 10 days, has cancelled all in-person events until further notice and has conducted contact tracing. His wife has shown no symptoms of coronavirus, but is awaiting her test results, the statement said.
The Republican governor and his staff “have been tested regularly” since being sworn into office in January, and staff would be tested again this morning “as a precautionary measure”, according to a statement emailed to the Financial Times.
Last year, several other state governors tested positive for Covid-19.