Governor prioritizes most vulnerable with new COVID-19 approach
Provides clear path to rescind statewide mask mandate
News from the Office of the Governor
MONTANA — In his first press conference as governor, Greg Gianforte announced, Tuesday, Jan. 5, how his administration will approach the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gianforte indicated his priorities are protecting the most vulnerable, promoting incentives and personal responsibility over mandates and making directives clear and easier to understand.
General Matt Quinn, who heads up the administration’s COVID-19 response, joined Gianforte at the press conference. After describing the impact of COVID-19, Gianforte reemphasized that confronting the virus is his “top priority as governor.”
Gianforte announced two key changes in COVID-19 policy. First, Gianforte is revising the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan to prioritize getting the vaccine to the most vulnerable. The revised vaccine distribution plan puts Montanans 70 years of age and older, Montanans 16 to 69 years of age that have an underlying severe medical condition and Native Americans next in line for the vaccine, after frontline healthcare workers.
“We need to provide the vaccine to those that want it,” Gianforte said. “We cannot have vaccines sitting on a shelf. That’s why I have tasked DPHHS and General Quinn to begin the process of revising the vaccine distribution plan to prioritize the most vulnerable. I have directed the team to make this change effective immediately.”
Second, Gianforte provided the path to rescinding the statewide mask mandate, including two conditions. Gianforte said, “After we have increased vaccine distribution and after I have legislation on my desk that protects businesses, schools, places of worship and nonprofit organizations that follow guidelines from lawsuits, then we will rescind the current statewide mask mandate.”
Gianforte emphasized the state needs to protect businesses and schools from lawsuits if they make a good faith effort to protect individuals from the spread of coronavirus and follow clear public health guidelines. Gianforte continued, “To combat the virus, I believe providing incentives and promoting personal responsibility are more effective than imposing impractical mandates.”