KALISPELL — Gov. Greg Gianforte visited Kalispell Friday on a vaccination clinic tour. He spoke to MTN News about his decision to remove the mandate and how businesses can no longer be held liable for not enforcing the use of masks.
"Well, this is fantastic to see a community come together like this, every shot that goes in an arm makes the light at the end of the tunnel brighter for all of us to come out of this difficult time,” Gov. Gianforte observed.
The governor visited the Flathead County Fairgrounds to observe a vaccination clinic that was taking place, giving 1,000 vaccinations to those in Tier1B.
The statewide mask mandate put into place by previous Gov. Steve Bullock is no longer in effect.
The change came after Gianforte lifted the mandate following the signing a new bill that protects businesses and health care providers from coronavirus-related lawsuits as long as they are taking “reasonable measures” based on public health guidance about COVID-19.
“I believe in personal responsibility as opposed to government mandates. Businesses still need to [take] reasonable precautions to protect both their staff and their customers,” Gianforte said. “We encourage them to follow the CDC guidelines but not every part of the state is the same.”
Still, Gianforte says he supports local health departments' decisions to continue the use of masks.
“Well, the local health departments have the authority to implement policies that are appropriate for the community and they have to look at the facts on the ground here to make the best decision for the community,” Gianforte told MTN News.
Although the governor lifted the mask mandate, he still wears one to protect himself and those around him. He is also encouraging Montanans to do the same.
“Montana's don't like wearing masks. I choose to wear a mask because it protects myself and the people around. I encourage other Montanans to do the same,” Gov. Gianforte said.
The governor also stated that the light at the end of the tunnel, he believes is coming, “we need to work through this together and I know Montana is resilient and our best days are ahead of us.”
Gov. Gianforte also traveled to the Polson vaccination clinic at the KwaTaqNuk Resort and Casino on Friday.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services has announced that 1,600 new vaccines will be distributed next week.