Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Cooney Friday said his Republican opponent, Greg Gianforte, should get tested for Covid-19 and suspend in-person campaigning, because he attended an October 3 concert linked to several positive cases.
“Your reckless behavior and your failure to adopt personal responsibility has put Montanans at risk,” Cooney said to his opponent in a statement.
Cooney said Friday he got Covid-19 test, because he and Gianforte were together for an October 6 debate in Missoula, three days after the concert -- and that the test came back negative.
But Gianforte, who led the October 3 concert crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, has no symptoms of the disease and doesn’t plan to get tested, his campaign said Friday.
“As Montanans confront this virus and economic crisis, it’s a shame that career-politician Mike Cooney is so desperate that he’s politicizing public health for his personal, partisan gain,” said Jake Eaton, Gianforte’s campaign manager.
During campaign or public events, Gianforte has seldom been seen wearing a mask, in recent weeks. Pictures of the concert on social media show Gianforte without a face-mask at the concert, including getting his picture taken with someone at the site.
On Thursday evening, the Lewis & Clark County Public Health agency said several recent cases of Covid-19 in the Helena area have been “epidemiologically linked” to people who attended the concert.
Organizers of the concert, which was sponsored by a group called Let Freedom Ring, have said they followed county guidelines for the concert regarding social distancing and wearing masks. But photographs of the event that appeared on social media showed concert-goers crowded close together, largely without wearing masks.
Dendra Niemann, health officer for the county, said anyone who attended the concert should monitor themselves for symptoms, and isolate themselves and contact their medical provider if they are sick or have symptoms.
“We simply need to quickly identify cases and their close contacts if we are to have a chance at containing disease and preventing an outbreak,” she said. “Gatherings of this nature, and at this time, can quickly turn into super-spreader events.”
Gianforte’s campaign said he has not been in close contact with anyone testing positive for Covid-19 and hasn’t shown any symptoms, and that his own health-care provider has not recommended that he get tested.
It also noted that it has been 13 days since the event.