Governor Greg Gianforte announced on Wednesday that he will let the statewide mask mandate expire on Friday. The governor said he will still allow health boards to make decisions on a local level, but that as governor, he will not mandate masks be worn moving forward.

The announcement came after Gianforte signed his first bill into law. According to a press release from the governor's office, Senate Bill No. 65 will shield businesses, health care providers, nonprofit organizations, and places of worship from coronavirus-related lawsuits, provided they take measures to protect individuals from COVID-19 and follow public health guidelines.

“On January 5th, I addressed how critical it is to protect businesses, nonprofit organizations, places of worship, and health care providers from lawsuits if they make a good faith effort to protect individuals from the spread of the coronavirus and follow clear public health guidelines,” Governor Gianforte said. “And the legislature delivered.”

 Gianforte added, “On January 5th, Senator Fitzpatrick introduced SB 65, and within a month, it cleared the Legislature with bipartisan support. I want to thank every legislator – Republican and Democrat – who recognized the importance of protecting businesses, nonprofits, and others that protect their workers, their customers, and their clients.”

When he took office in January, the governor said he planned to lift Montana's state mask mandate but that he would not act on that until a law was passed to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits arising from COVID.

The governor is expected to issue a directive to that effect this Friday. However, based on an interview we had with health officials this week, it does not appear likely that our local health board will be lifting our local mask mandate anytime soon.

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