HELENA — Governor Greg Gianforte said during his first news conference since being sworn into office that he plans to repeal the statewide mask mandate, but the change will not happen until certain criteria are met.
Gianforte said he wants expanded access to vaccinations for the most vulnerable, and protections against lawsuits for schools, businesses, and non-profits in place before the current mandate is repealed.
Any changes will happen once "clear and practical" guidelines are in place and he has legislation on his desk that protects organizations that are following those guidelines from lawsuits, and vaccine distribution has been widely expanded to vulnerable populations.
“I choose to wear a mask and encourage others to do the same,” said Gianforte.
The governor said that he wants to see additional COVID vaccinations and is trying to move away from directives and toward incentives.
He said that vaccination plan for Montana is being revised by the Montana Department of Health & Human Services and will take effect immediately. Under the plan, the vaccine distribution plan will be expanded to cover all Montanans who are 70 years of age or older. Additionally, vaccines will be provided to residents between the ages of 16 and 69 who have specific underlying health conditions.
Gianforte says that Montana has received 36,000 first doses of COVID vaccines and additional 41,000 first doses are expected. He also noted that 23,000 Montanans have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday.
We will update you as we get more information about the plan.
You can watch the entire news conference here:
There were 897 new COVID-19 cases reported in Montana on Tuesday morning, and the statewide death toll has now reached 1,034, according to data compiled by MTN News during a 24-hour period. Two additional deaths were reported in Missoula County, and one additional death was reported in each Chouteau, Valley and Yellowstone counties.
The number of active cases in the state is currently 4,899, according to MTN News, and there has been a cumulative total of 84,010 cases of the virus in Montana. Of the total cases, 78,077 have recovered. There are currently 212 people hospitalized for treatment of the virus, and the cumulative number of hospitalizations is 3,686. The number of tests performed in the state has reached 813,082, an increase of 2,202 during the previous 24-hour reporting period.
The counties with the most deaths are:
- Big Horn: 65
- Blaine: 23
- Cascade: 107
- Dawson: 27
- Flathead: 56
- Gallatin: 38
- Glacier: 35
- Hill: 37
- Lewis & Clark: 42
- Missoula: 56
- Ravalli: 26
- Roosevelt: 51
- Rosebud: 28
- Silver Bow: 58
- Yellowstone: 166
SOURCES: The numbers reported above reflect the latest data from the official Montana COVID website as well as supplemental data from county health departments. The disparity between numbers provided by the MT Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) and numbers from county health departments continues to grow as COVID cases escalate in Montana. MTN News uses both state data and county data to provide more accurate and timely information. As a result, numbers reported by MTN do not align with the DPHHS figures.
VACCINE: Last week the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan was updated to incorporate new federal recommendations for allocation to critical groups in Montana and an estimated timeline. Click here for details.
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CONTEXT: Not every person who tests positive actually becomes ill or exhibits symptoms. Many do not; of those who do become sick, some experience mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization. Others experience more severe symptoms, and some do require hospitalization. Every person who tests positive for COVID, however, has the potential to spread the virus to other people, including family members and friends, which is why public health officials continue to encourage everyone to wear a mask and maintain at least the recommended six feet of "social distance" when in public. The CDC released data in late August which emphasizes that people with contributing or chronic medical conditions are at much greater risk of dying from COVID-19. Click here to read more.