Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) lifted a statewide mask mandate on Friday that had been put in place by former Gov. Steve Bullock (D) last July amid the coronavirus pandemic; however, some counties will keep local mask requirements.
The day after he took office, Gianforte said he would lift the mask mandate when enough vaccinations had been administered and businesses and healthcare providers received liability protections. Gianforte announced earlier this week that both requirements had been met, creating his path to lift the statewide mask mandate.
On Wednesday, Gianforte said he believes residents in Montana can “combat this public health and economic pandemic.”
“When it comes down to it, I trust Montanans, and together we can combat this public health and economic pandemic with personal responsibility by looking out for one another,” Gianforte said.
Those who will keep local mask rules include Lewis and Clark County, Gallatin County, Butte City, Missoula County, and the city of Whitefish.
The announcement that the mandate would be lifted come during the signing of Senate Bill 65, which was sponsored by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick (R-Great Falls) and intends to protect businesses, nonprofits, churches, and healthcare providers from most lawsuits over people catching the virus on their property.
“If you’re taking reasonable and responsible precautions to protect your employees, your members, your customers from COVID-19, you shouldn’t have to worry about unnecessary litigation,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “At the same time, this bill doesn’t give anyone a free pass and it makes clear that Montanans are protected from bad actors.”
While the mask mandate has been lifted for the state, Gianforte said he will continue to wear a mask and urged residents in the state to continue doing so, as well.
According to recent data, Montana has had a total of 96,938 coronavirus cases and 1,322 deaths as a result of the virus.
***Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Butte County would keep its mask mandate in place for residents. The updated version of this story now reads Butte City, where a mask mandate will remain in place for that area.