Protest against virus restrictions held at Montana Capitol

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Armed demonstrators were among a group gathered at the Montana Capitol to protest the state government’s response to the coronavirus.

About 60 protesters convened outside the Capitol building in Helena Wednesday, The Independent Record reported.

Some demonstrators carried guns and others held signs, including many that referenced Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

Bullock enacted travel restrictions and a stay-at-home order March 28 in response to the spread of COVID-19.

Bullock lifted the stay-at-home order for individuals April 26 and for many nonessential businesses April 27 as part of a phased reopening plan, while keeping some social distancing requirements in place.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Montana officials detect new case of chronic wasting disease

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials found signs of chronic wasting disease in a white-tailed deer north of Bozeman.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced Tuesday that the animal was suspected of carrying the fatal wildlife disease, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

The male deer was killed earlier this month after it displayed common symptoms of the disease, including a skinny and weak appearance, the department said.

The deer's symptoms were the first indication of the disease in Gallatin County, but its arrival seemed inevitable to those who have tracked the disease over the past few years.

Chronic wasting disease affects the nervous systems of deer, elk and moose and is spread through direct contact between the animals. The illness was first detected in Montana in 2017, officials said.

The disease does not appear to infect humans, but federal health officials advise against eating meat from infected animals.

About 7,000 animals were tested during the last hunting season and the disease appeared in places that were distant from previously confirmed sources.

“After last year, we shouldn’t be surprised when CWD shows up anywhere in Montana,” said Nick Gevock, conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation.

Woman with COVID-19 refused to quarantine, charged

ESTANCIA, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a New Mexico woman who tested positive for COVID-19 is facing charges after she refused to quarantine herself and visited several businesses.

KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reports prosecutors recently charged Gina Peterson with public nuisance and violating the state’s health order and public nuisance.

According to a criminal complaint, the 67-year-old Peterson walked in the Mama Bear’s restaurant in Estancia on April 10, announced she had the coronavirus and refused to leave. Documents say she later came back and stayed in the women’s restroom until the town’s police chief removed her.

Police also say she visited other businesses in town and announced she had the novel coronavirus.

Officers later learned Peterson had been diagnosed with the virus and the doctor had instructed her to quarantine herself per the governor’s public health order.

Mama Bear’s owner Kathy Swope says after the episode she closed the restaurant for 10 days and stopped takeout orders.

Democrats back attempt to shut down North Dakota pipeline

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Three dozen congressional Democrats are backing an attempt by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to shut down an oil pipeline in North Dakota while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts an environmental review.

The group that includes Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren filed a brief in federal court Wednesday asserting that allowing the Dakota Access pipeline to operate during the review would give federal agencies “bureaucratic momentum” and violate treaty rights and tribal sovereignty.

“The pipeline’s ultimate fate will be a political decision and these leaders understand that DAPL should have never been routed through tribal lands,” Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the tribe, said of the 36 Democrats.

A Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment on behalf of the Army Corps.

A half-dozen briefs have been filed by states and groups in favor of keeping the pipeline running.

The pipeline was the subject of months of protests, sometimes violent, during its construction in late 2016 and early 2017 near the reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. It began carrying oil in June 2017.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said in April the pipeline remains “highly controversial” under federal environmental law and requires a more extensive review.

Developer's document revealed old mine uncovered by sinkhole

BLACK HAWK, S.D. (AP) — A developer's document for a subdivision where a massive sinkhole has caused evacuations in Black Hawk says county planners were told about an old mine underneath the property before construction began.

The Rapid City Journal reports the Meade County Planning Board approved the Hideaway Hills development after being told part of it would be built over a mine and that soil boring may be needed to determine if dangerous cavities exist, according to a document packet from the developer.

The 2000 document was also addressed to county commissioners and planning staff.

Fifteen families have evacuated their homes after the large sinkhole opened April 27 and exposed the mine 25 to 30 feet below ground.

Meade County is applying for a federal grant that could pay families 75% of their home value before the sinkhole emerged. The other 25% would pay for the cost of demolishing the homes, capping off utilities and redeveloping the area as a green space.

Gov. Kristi Noem says she plans to host a conference call with displaced families.

“There’s been a lot of questions to me and my office about what is gong on there with the homes and the families that are affected by the mine that is underneath that neighborhood,” Noem said. There’s also questions about “what role the state has in the situation.”

South Dakota gov. takes tribe checkpoint flap to White House

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday she is appealing to President Donald Trump's administration in her standoff with two American Indian tribes over coronavirus checkpoints they set up on federal and state highways.

Noem said at her daily briefing that she has sent affidavits and video to the White House, the Department of Justice, the Interior Department and her state's congressional delegation, asking for help resolving the dispute.

“This is not taking sides. This is simply upholding the law,” the Republican governor said.

The tribes set up the checkpoints last month to keep unnecessary visitors off the reservations.

Earlier this month, Noem threatened to sue the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe if they did not remove highway stops within 48 hours. She backed away from that plan last week, offering to negotiate on the issue if they would take them off of U.S. and state highways.

“I know there are questions out there about respecting (tribal) sovereignty,” Noem said Wednesday. But she contends the checkpoints cannot legally be on those highways.

Harold Frazier, the chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, told Noem in a letter last week that the tribe would consider her request to restrict checkpoints to tribal roads. But he made it clear to The Associated Press that he believes the tribe’s sovereignty allows it to operate checkpoints anywhere on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, in northern South Dakota. He said the checkpoints are essential to protecting the health of the people on the reservation.

Remi Bald Eagle, a spokesman for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said Wednesday he would seek Frazier's reaction to Noem going to the White House in the dispute.

South Dakota officials report 92 new coronavirus infections

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota health officials reported 92 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 4,177.

There were no new deaths to report, leaving the statewide toll at 46.

Minnehaha County, South Dakota’s most populous county, continues to lead the state in infections, with 3,182 cases and 40 deaths. But Beadle County reported the largest day-to-day increase on Wednesday with 25 new confirmed cases. Health officials have warned the the actual number of infections is higher because many people may not display symptoms or have not sought testing for mild symptoms.

Nearly three-fourths of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state have fully recovered, while 1,108 have active infections. There are currently 81 people hospitalized from the virus, according to the Department of Health.

Wolves attack 2 more calves, state considering response

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A northeast Washington wolf pack attacked two more calves, state Fish and Wildlife officials have confirmed, potentially pushing the department to consider shooting at least one wolf.

The Wedge pack injured one calf and killed another in a private pasture in Stevens County, a department spokeswoman told the Capital Press.

The pack inflicted fatal injuries on another calf on May 11, according to the department.

Department officials planned to meet Wednesday to discuss the department’s response.

According to the department’s lethal-removal protocol, Fish and Wildlife will consider shooting one or two wolves after three attacks on livestock within 30 days.

The department also considers whether non-lethal steps could be take to prevent the attacks. The decision rests with Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind.

Fish and Wildlife killed seven wolves in the Wedge pack in 2012, leaving two surviving members. It was the first time the department had culled a pack since wolves began returning to Washington.

After a prolonged period of no confirmed attacks, the Wedge pack killed a cow in a private pasture last June, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Wedge pack had three wolves at the end of 2019, according to Fish and Wildlife. One pack member was legally harvested last year by a tribal hunter.

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