In a press conference in Helena on Wednesday, Governor Bullock instituted a limited mandatory masking ordinance for the entire state of Montana.

Bullock first described the scope of the COVID case growth in the state.

“In the last month, active cases in Montana have risen from 55 to over 1,000,” said Bullock. “While we’re still the lowest per capita in positives and hospitalizations in the continental United States, when it comes to total cases in Montana, we’ve double the number of cases since the start of July.”

Bullock outlined the conditions of the mandatory masking order.

“Effective immediately, in counties with four or more active COVID 19 cases I will be issuing a directive that requires face coverings in certain indoor business settings to prevent the spread of COVID 19,” said Bullock. “Face coverings will also be required in outdoor gatherings of 50 or more, but only if social distancing isn’t possible, or isn’t being observed.”

Bullock said children under the age of five are not required to wear a mask and children two and younger should not wear a mask.

“Other exceptions where masks are not required include consuming food or drinks in establishments that offer food or drinks for sale,” he said. “In addition, engaging in an activity that makes wearing a face covering impractical or unsafe, such as strenuous physical exercise or swimming, for example.”

Bullock said, as Missoula’s own ordinance states, that businesses are responsible for enforcing the rule.

“Businesses and other people responsible for indoor spaces certainly may deny entry or refuse services and ask you to leave if you don’t have a mask or aren’t eligible for an accommodation,” he said. “No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service, it’s that simple."

Missoula is one of the 24 counties with four or more active cases, however the health department’s mandatory masking ruling has already complied with the governor’s order.