Gianforte issues new directives, lifts mask mandate

Monday, February 15, 2021

HELENA – Gov. Greg Gianforte issued two new directives and an executive order Feb. 12, one of which lifts the statewide mask mandate.

The first directive rescinds and replaces all prior directives implementing Executive Order 2-2021, which the governor issued on Jan. 13, 2021.

Consistent with the governor’s announcement on Feb. 10, the new directive allows the statewide mask mandate to expire. Local jurisdictions may still choose to implement their own mask requirements.

"Since Jan. 5, I have provided a clear, consistent path to rescinding the mask mandate," he said. "First, we need to start getting the vaccine to our most vulnerable. Second, we need to protect businesses, nonprofits, places of worship, and health care providers from lawsuits if they make a good faith effort to protect individuals from the spread of coronavirus and follow clear public health guidelines. We have met both criteria, and the statewide mandate expires today."

Gianforte emphasized how providing incentives and encouraging personal responsibility are more effective than imposing impractical, unenforceable government mandates.

On Feb. 10, Gianforte signed SB 65 into law which provides a liability shield to businesses, nonprofits, and others who protect their workers, their customers, and their clients from the spread of COVID-19.

"We will provide incentives to protect the health and safety of Montanans, and we will emphasize personal responsibility. Since we’re not out of the woods yet, I will continue wearing a mask and encourage all Montanans to do the same to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors," he said.

As of Feb. 12, Montanans have administered more than 167,000 doses, and nearly 47,000 Montanans are fully immunized.

The state remains in Phase 1B of its vaccine distribution plan, which the governor updated on Jan. 6 to protect the most vulnerable Montanans, including people 70 years of age and older, Montanans 16 years of age and older who have severe underlying medical conditions, and Native Americans and other persons of color who are at a heightened risk of severe COVID-19-related complications.

In keeping with Gianforte’s Jan. 13 directive which removed restrictions on hours of service and capacity for businesses, today’s directive continues to encourage businesses to adopt industry best practices or public health guidance to protect their employees and customers.

The new directive also continues to promote the use of telehealth services, protect vulnerable Montanans from eviction or foreclosure, ease licensing for healthcare professionals, and reduce regulatory burdens.

The second directive repeals the election-related directive dated Aug. 6, 2020. The governor also issued Executive Order 3-2021 which rescinds Executive Order 15-2018.

"Our Constitution makes it plain as day: the legislature makes our laws, not the governor and not the courts,” Gianforte said. "It’s the responsibility of our legislature to determine how Montana’s elections are conducted, and it’s the responsibility of our legislature to determine whether an individual must disclose donations to a nonprofit group.

"These issues are up to the legislature now, which is where they should have been decided all along," he added.