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Gianforte's New COVID-19 Directives Swap Mandates For Personal Responsibility

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James Bradley
UM Legislative News Service
Gov. Greg Gianforte releases his plans for the state’s response to COVID-19 at a press conference January 5, 2021. He said he will rescind the statewide mask mandate, but only after certain criteria are met.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte in a press conference Wednesday signaled his decision to remove and revise COVID-19 business restrictions put in place by his predecessor.

Gianforte says this includes removing “arbitrary” capacity limits and restricted hours of operation.

The new directive goes into effect Jan. 15, but local health boards still maintain authority to enforce stricter mandates within each county.

Gianforte says the new directives still require masks, but gathering sizes will no longer be restricted, and instead, Montanans should follow CDC social distancing guidelines.

"The whole concept here is we're going to move more to personal responsibility and away from specific mandates. Because we trust Montanans with their health and the health of their loved ones."

The new directives instruct businesses to make "reasonable efforts to develop and implement appropriate policies based on industry best practices. Where no such industry practices exist, such policies should be developed and implemented in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations and guidance."

Following the governor’s announcement, Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley issued a statement reminding locals of the county’s emergency rule which limits business hours and capacities and caps group sizes.

The Montana health department confirmed 597 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, along with two more deaths from the virus.

Kaitlyn Nicholas covers tribal news in Montana.