GREAT FALLS — A mask mandate is now in place in Cascade County. The order comes with several exceptions, including not requiring masks when social distancing can be maintained, children under the age of 5, and when eating or drinking.
The board also voted to limit events to 75% of an event venue’s capacity, with exceptions being made on a case-by-case basis as long as the organization hosting the event submits an event plan to the county health department.
The mask requirement and capacity restrictions will stay in place until the county’s COVID-19 case rate drops below 10 per 100,000 residents for two straight weeks.
The Cascade County Board of Health voted on Wednesday evening in favor of the motion in a 5-2 decision, with Commissioner Joe Briggs and Chairman Owen Robinson voting no. Those voting in favor were Ray Geyer, a physician at the Great Falls Clinic; Matt Martin, a dentist; GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore; Terry Barber, a pharmacist; and Amanda Ball, who works for Child & Family Services.
Wednesday’s meeting was in response to Governor Greg Gianforte ending the state’s mask mandate last Friday (February 12).
Public comment before the vote Wednesday was overwhelmingly against requiring masks. After public comment, commissioners then considered only recommending - but not requiring - masks.
Commissioners asked if the second on the motion to require masks would be withdrawn, but it was not, requiring a vote on the motion. Commissioners then discussed voting down the motion and making a new motion to recommend but not require masks.
They noted, however, they would then be required to take public comment on the new motion, at which point the vote to approve the motion to require masks was approved.
"I really just think we're throwing darts at flies. There's no way we can enforce it, number one, and then what we're doing is adding to the political versus health,” Robinson said.
Ahead of last week's directive by Governor Gianforte, several county and municipal agencies had already announced they intend to keep some restrictions: