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Mask mandate embroils Big Sky Deli

Posted at 12:04 PM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 13:14:49-04

(UPDATE, 6:55 pm) Big Sky Deli declined to be interviewed today, saying only that they want this situation to "blow over." On Tuesday evening, the CCHD posted the following response to the situation:

Hello, Cascade County. On this morning’s post, we saw a lot of questions about what CCHD is doing to enforce the mask order in Cascade County. It is vital for you to know that, to date, we have not threatened or demanded that a single business close because of non-compliance with the mask order. There are multiple avenues for enforcement when we learn that a business is in violation of public health orders. Although the COVID-19 situation is constantly changing, here is an outline of our basic process:

  • A complaint is filed- CCHD verifies the complaint
  • We educate the business
  • A second complaint is filed
  • CCHD verifies the second complaint
  • We educate the business a second time
  • A third complaint is filed
  • CCHD verifies the third complaint
  • CCHD consults with the County Attorney’s office
  • Cascade County Sheriff’s Office maybe brought in
  • Penalties for violations are enforced

Violations can be enforced by civil injunction, as well as through criminal prosecution, with fines of up to $500 per day for each day of a violation, 90 days jail, or both upon conviction.
CCHD has no desire to be punitive—we hope our process shows that we default to education. That said, it is critical that Cascade County businesses and residents continue to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19. Let’s abide by the Governor’s directive regarding masks so that business owners can focus on staying open and serving their customers rather than on enforcing public health orders.

(1st Report, 12:08 pm) The Big Sky Deli in Vaughn is encouraging all of its customers to wear masks after claiming that the store was threatened with closure by the City-County Health Department.

The CCHD in Great Falls on July 23rd formally adopted the state-wide mask mandate issued by Governor Steve Bullock on July 16th. The directive requires face coverings in all counties that have more than three active cases of COVID-19, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Click here for details about the directive. The directive requires that masks be used in most indoor settings and where social distancing cannot be maintained. Bullock said businesses will have the right to deny entrance to anyone not wearing a mask. “No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service. It’s that simple,” he said.

On Monday, Big Sky Deli posted on Facebook that "...we never thought it would come to this but due to a few people reporting to the health department about customers in our store not wearing a face covering the Cascade County Health Department is threatening to close us down."

They said because of that, they are asking that all customers wear a face covering "so the health department is happy." They noted that anyone with a health condition that prevents a person from wearing a face covering is still welcome in the store. They also said, "If you see someone without a mask PLEASE understand that you do not know there (sic) side of things! Spread love, NOT fear!"

The Big Sky Deli Facebook post has generated more than 250 comments in less than 24 hours, the overwhelming number of which support Big Sky Deli.

The CCHD posted on Facebook on Tuesday morning: "We want to reassure you that we are working hard to educate local businesses about the Governor’s mask mandate. Our focus is education, not discipline. CCHD thanks those businesses that are complying with enforcing the order, as well as our citizens who are diligently taking preventive measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Again, education for our community's businesses and residents is our primary goal."

We are working to get more details of the situation from the CCHD and Big Sky Deli, and will update you if we get more information.