Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said during his first news conference since being sworn into office that he does plan to repeal the statewide mask mandate, but the change will not happen until certain criteria are met.
Gianforte said he wants expanded access to vaccinations for the most vulnerable and protections against lawsuits for schools, businesses, and non-profits in place before the current mandate is repealed.
Any changes will happen once "clear and practical" guidelines are in place and he has legislation on his desk that protects organizations that are following those guidelines from lawsuits, and vaccine distribution has been widely expanded to vulnerable populations.
“I choose to wear a mask and encourage others to do the same,” said Gianforte.
The governor said that he wants to see additional COVID vaccinations and is trying to move away from directives and toward incentives.
He said that vaccination plan for Montana is being revised by the Montana Department of Health & Human Services and will take effect immediately. Under the plan, the vaccine distribution plan will be expanded to cover all Montanans who are 70 years of age or older. Additionally, vaccines will be provided to residents between the ages of 16 and 69 who have specific underlying health conditions.
Gianforte says that Montana has received 36,000 first doses of COVID vaccines and additional 41,000 first doses are expected. He also noted that 23,000 Montanans have received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday.
We will update you as we get more information about the plan.
This story has been updated with additional information from the Governor's press conference.