Breaking: Gianforte Doing Away with Statewide Mask Directive
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R-MT) fulfilled a campaign promise during his first bill signing ceremony as governor Wednesday afternoon. During a 2:30 p.m. bill signing ceremony in Helena, the governor announced that he will be rescinding the statewide mask directive put in place by former Governor Bullock.
I will provide a directive on Friday morning that will allow the existing statewide mandate to expire.
The statewide directive will expire Friday morning, according to the governor. Governor Gianforte added that local entities may still choose to order mask directives.
The announcement was made as Governor Gianforte signed Senate Bill 65 into law. SB 65 is the COVID-19 liability protection bill that the governor said he wanted to have in place prior to lifting the statewide mask directive.
COVID-19 case numbers have been declining in Montana, even since statewide restrictions on bars and restaurants were lifted. Statewide numbers have plummeted according to USA Today, and case numbers and hospitalizations in Yellowstone County have also declined since the restrictions were lifted.
Governor Gianforte, when he lifted the restrictions on restaurants and bars, also stated that he wanted to do away with the statewide mask directive. Before lifting the directive; however, the governor maintained that he wanted a liability protection bill in place for Montana businesses, and broader distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the state reported that 149,263 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Montana.
The bill also had the support from the Montana Chamber of Commerce. As we previously reported, the head of the chamber authored a guest opinion for The Flathead Beacon:
This bill protects businesses from litigation if a customer claims to have contracted COVID-19 in their business. It protects responsible organizations making appropriate safeguards, following CDC protocols for social distancing, sanitization, and wearing face masks.