Gov. Gianforte lifts statewide mask mandate

Vaccinations progress statewide
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, February 17, 2021

One local school district celebrated the return to mask-optional schooling this week, based on the lifting of the statewide mask mandate.

Gov. Greg Gianforte lifted the mask requirement Feb. 12, after signing legislation that shields businesses, health care providers, nonprofits and places of worship from coronavirus-related lawsuits, provided they take measures to protect individuals from COVID-19 and follow public health guidelines.

School District #10 Superintendent Randy Shipman announced mask-optional schooling on Sunday, which took effect Monday. Under the new policy, masks are required for staff members while teaching when social distancing of six feet cannot be maintained. Masks are recommended but not required for students. Adult visitors, however, are still expected to mask up while visiting the school.

Beaverhead County High School has not announced a change to its mask requirement. The district only recently returned to full-time in-person schooling.

Gianforte’s new directive rescinding the mask requirement does not prohibit counties from having more strict requirements. Beaverhead County-City Public Health Board will meet this morning, Wednesday, to discuss Gianforte’s newest directive.

New coronavirus cases and deaths statewide are in decline. In the past week, Montana added 1,378 new cases and 16 deaths as of Tuesday. Montana recorded 97,666 total cases and 1,331 deaths as of Tuesday. Beaverhead County added one new case over the week (a woman in her 30s), tallying 854 total cases as of Tuesday.

The state has fully vaccinated 53,482 individuals, and 184,483 total doses have been administered as of Tuesday. Beaverhead County has fully vaccinated 468 people, and administered 1,880 total doses as of Monday.

The state Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) announced a small increase in vaccine doses to be received this week. The state is expected to receive 16,425 first doses and 13,525 second doses, though officials continue to push for more doses each week.

There have been over 27.5 million cases and more than 485,000 deaths nationwide as of Tuesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).