Emotions run high at Bozeman health meeting on mandatory mask order

Posted at 12:58 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 15:06:01-04

BOZEMAN — The Gallatin City-County Health Department Board of Health was scheduled to discuss two emergency rules Tuesday morning.

But the meeting was called off even before it began after members of the public refused to follow social distancing rules set in place by the Board of Health.

The meeting, held at The Commons off of Baxter Lane in Bozeman, was planned to discuss a possible new emergency rule that could require the use of face coverings in most public spaces.

Emotions were high and escalated when it was announced the meeting was postponed until a later time.

People were rude,” said Gallatin County Commissioner Joe Skinner. “They were very inconsiderate. It was gonna become impossible to have the meeting so we shut the meeting down and we will regroup.”

The disruption started when Gallatin County Sheriff Briain Gootkin tried to get the crowd to follow the meeting’s social distancing rules.

“We can only allow the people in the chairs in here,” said Gootkin. “Other people can go outside (don’t shake your head, wait a second, listen to me). If you want to have this meeting and I want you to have this meeting - and you want to have this meeting. Then please follow the rules.”

Attendees refused to leave the auditorium and the Board threatened to have the meeting virtually.

The disruption continued until the meeting was finally postponed.

Sheriff Gootkin said many people against a mask mandate felt like their voices weren’t heard and that fueled the emotion.

“I think there are people who are scared to death of this virus, and people who are scared to death of losing their freedoms and liberties under the constitution,” he said.

“We have to understand fear is fear, emotion is emotion, doesn’t matter which side you’re on. And we have to control that and be respectful and then we can have that conversation.”

The meeting has been postponed to Friday at 7 a.m. The meeting will be held virtually only.

"After much discussion, it has been decided, to ensure that we are meeting public notice requirements, that today’s Gallatin City-County Board of Health special meeting will be rescheduled to Friday, July 17 at 7 AM. The meeting will be virtual-only. The agenda will remain the same. Public comment will be reopened between now and the meeting to take additional input from citizens."