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Gianforte has not shown symptoms after attending concert linked to COVID cases

Gianforte has not shown symptoms after attending concert linked to COVID cases

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Let Freedom Ring (copy)

The Let Freedom Ring concert was held Oct. 3 in the Helena Valley. 

A Montana concert attended by Republican candidate for governor U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte has been linked to several COVID-19 cases, local health officials said Thursday.

The outdoor concert, held Oct. 3 in Helena, was approved by the local health department, the Independent Record reported.

Event organizers later faced criticism for failing to abide by local health orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which limit public events to less than 250 attendees.

Gianforte led the pledge of allegiance at the event and left a short time later, according to his spokesperson, Travis Hall.

Gianforte has not shown symptoms of the virus and his health care provider did not recommend a COVID-19 test, Hall said.

The local health department issued a statement Thursday asking concert attendees to closely monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 after several positive cases were linked to some people who went to the event.

“Gatherings of this nature, and at this time, can quickly turn into super-spreader events,” Drenda Niemann, health officer for the Lewis and Clark public health department, said in a statement on Thursday.

She added: “Right now, the focus isn’t on whether the event was the right or wrong thing to do, 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.”

The campaign of Gianforte's rival, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, announced late Friday afternoon that Cooney and his running mate Casey Schreiner had tested negative for the virus after Cooney attended an in-person debate in Missoula two days after the concert.

“This virus has stolen 235 Montanans away from their friends and families. It deserves to be treated with the utmost seriousness and caution. Casey and I are thankful for all the well wishes we’ve received over the past 24 hours, and we’re relieved to announce that we have tested negative for COVID-19,” Cooney said in a statement. He also criticized what he called Gianforte's "stunning disregard for the health and safety of our fellow Montanans."

Gianforte’s campaign manager, Jake Eaton, accused Cooney of politicizing a public health issue.

Gianforte has faced criticism from some health professionals, who accuse him of failing to follow public health advice.

During a recent campaign stop in Helena, Gianforte arrived at the event wearing a face mask, but took it off and hugged unmasked supporters after his speech.

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