Gianforte lifts state mask mandate; Cascade County health board set to meet Feb. 17

Gov. Greg Gianforte issued an executive order Feb. 12 lifting the statewide mask mandate, but local jurisdictions may implement their own mask requirements.

Cascade County does not currently have a mask mandate as the health order that went into effect Jan. 22 does not include one but does encourage residents to wear masks.

The Cascade County Board of Health has scheduled a special meeting for 4 p.m. Feb. 17 to discuss a local mask requirement.

County health board planning special meeting regarding masks

The board and the county health officer could implement mask requirements on their own or jointly.

Since January, Gianforte has said that to lift the mask mandate he wanted legislation on his desk to protect businesses, nonprofits, places of worship and healthcare providers from COVID-19 lawsuits if they’d made good faith efforts to protect people from the virus and follow public health guidelines. Gianforte signed such a law earlier this week.

He also said he wanted to vaccinate more of the most vulnerable, though he never gave a specific number or percentage of what that looked like, he said Feb. 12 that both criteria had been met.

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“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,” Gianforte said in a release, but did not specify what those incentives entail.

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

As of Feb. 8, 10,976 doses had been administered in Cascade County and 2,855 had been fully vaccinated, according to the state dashboard.

There are approximately 10,000 people in Cascade County who are 70 and over, and another estimated 16,000 people aged 16-69 with underlying conditions who will be eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1b, the current phase of the state plan.

County seeking volunteers for COVID-19 clinics

The Cascade County health order limiting occupancy and hours for bars, restaurants and the like remain in effect.

Those restrictions are in place until the county reaches an average daily case rate of 25 per 100,000 for four consecutive weeks.

As of Feb. 10, the county had met that rate for three consecutive weeks.