Face coverings required in Montana

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Businesses, organizations and public offices in Montana counties that have four or more active coronavirus cases must use face coverings or masks and require it for customers, visitors, employees and volunteers, effective immediately.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced the masking directive Wednesday, July 15. The order also allows local public health and law enforcement to enforce the directive. Bullock said educating the public would be the first step, but repeat offenders can be cited under local trespassing laws. Businesses and organizations may ask customers or attendees to leave if they do not comply.

"No shirt, no shoes, no mask – it's that simple," Bullock said in the Wednesday press conference announcing the directive.

The directive comes after weeks of increasing coronavirus-positive case counts across the state of Montana, and growing numbers of active cases and hospitalizations.

Counties with fewer than four active cases are also strongly recommended to encourage face masks or coverings.

The coverings will be required for adults and children age 5 and older; and recommended for children older than age 2, per U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Coverings need to be worn in indoor locations, and at outside gatherings of 50 people or more where social distancing is not possible. Other exceptions to remove masks include when consuming food and drink in establishments that sell it; engaging in an activity that would make mask-wearing unsafe, such as strenuous physical exercise or swimming; when communicating with the hearing impaired; when giving a speech, performance or other cultural event, provided the audience is at least six feet away; allowing for identification purposes; for required medical evaluations, diagnosis or treatment; or if the individual has a medical condition that precludes wearing a face covering. 

The coverings do not need to be worn in private residences not open to the public, though Bullock encouraged continued social distancing and limiting gatherings for everyone's safety.

"It's just like when you put your seatbelt on in a car and unbuckle it when you get out," he added. "There's no reason this needs to be political, because COVID-19 isn't political. Coronavirus doesn't care if you are Republican, a Democrat or an Independent. It is an unthinking parasite that will infect you either way, and it relies on you to spread it to others. This is about being a Montanan, and being supportive of those around us."

Bullock did not announce a new stay-at-home order, or change the current phase for reopening in the state.

Bullock also announced additional federal and state funding to provide protective equipment to schools as they work through their plans for potential in-class instruction this school year.

The full directive can be viewed at: https://covid19.mt.gov/Portals/223/Documents/Mask%20Directive%20FINAL.pdf?ver=2020-07-15-140109-633