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Lewis & Clark County leaders: Mask mandate should be a last resort

Posted at 6:29 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 10:27:04-04

HELENA — Lewis and Clark County leaders say they are reluctant to require people to wear masks in public places, but they are continuing to urge people to wear them when they’re unable to maintain distance.

Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Susan Good Geise said Tuesday that she is getting about a dozen calls and emails a day, asking the county to implement a mask mandate. She said she wants that step to a last resort.

“Nobody wants to do that,” she said. “I am a person who has fought mandates my entire career. And so we ask, we implore, we entreat people to mask up.”

Geise, who wore a mask throughout Tuesday’s commission meeting, noted that there were eight county representatives present at the meeting. She said five of the eight were either in high-risk categories or had people in their household in those categories.

Geise asked people who see mask-wearing as unnecessary to look at it as a small way to help protect vulnerable people in the community.

“If they are in fact right, and COVID is the hoax that some people seem to think that it is, and they do in fact mask up, to them this is a minor inconvenience,” she said. “Assume for a second that they’re wrong, that COVID is real, that it is contagious as can be, that they may be spreading this virus even though they don’t know they have it. If these people who refuse to mask up are wrong, make no mistake, they are putting other people’s lives at risk.”

Any decision to move forward with a mask mandate in Lewis and Clark County would come from the City-County Board of Health. County health officer Drenda Niemann said Lewis and Clark Public Health has been discussing a possible order with the board, but that no decision has been made yet.

“We are strategizing the best approach and being thoughtful about unintended consequences,” she said. “For now, we are asking residents in Lewis and Clark County to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces where physical distance is difficult to maintain. We want our businesses to stay open and our schools to open in the fall. This means we need our communities support by wearing your masks.”