As Greg Gianforte begins his first week as Montana’s governor, residents around the state are saying “Help Me Taylor,” to understand the future of the mask mandate. If Governor Gianforte announces he’s scratching Gov. Steve Bullock’s statewide requirement to wear a mask, where does that leave local municipalities and counties with high numbers?
The key word in this conversation is “if,” because Gianforte hasn’t taken away the mandate yet. We’re anticipating those decisions will be announced later this week, even as early as tomorrow. But one thing is certain… Gianforte’s thoughts on the mandate have remained consistent almost from the beginning. Here’s what he said when I sat down with him last year on the campaign trail:
“I would rely more on personal responsibility rather than mandates. I lean in more to guidance for Montanans, because I trust Montanans with their health and the health of their loved ones rather than edicts out of Helena.”
But just because there might not be a statewide mask mandate doesn’t mean counties and cities can’t still keep one in place. Most local health departments I’ve spoken with say they’re waiting to hear the Governor’s decision before they announce anything. Other places, like Lewis and Clark, Missoula and Gallatin Counties, have a local mandate in place they plan on keeping regardless of the Governor's decision… Gallatin will revisit the mandate on the 20th at their next board meeting. Whitefish is expected to discuss a possible city-wide ordinance at a meeting Monday evening, and Cascade County has it on their agenda for Wednesday. But public health officers tell me regardless of who’s in power politically, recommendations from the CDC will remain the same: wear a mask, social distance, and keep group sizes small.
“If people keep doing and taking all the same precautions, all the same prevention methods, and applying those, we’re going to continue to be able to keep this under control and keep people from getting sick and dying, and overwhelming our hospitals and systems,” says Cascade City-County Health Department Public Health Officer Trisha Gardner.
So where does this leave you? Keep watching Montana Right Now as we update you on the Governor’s decision. Also, check out your local health departments’ websites for the most up-to-date information on county policies. And remember, even if there’s not a statewide mask mandate or county-wide mandate, local businesses and companies can still require a mask when you enter the building. So make sure you’re reading signs and bringing a mask with you, just in case.
If you have a question or a problem that needs a solution, you can reach Taylor on Facebook or here.