At his first press conference on Tuesday, Governor Greg Gianforte said he would be revising the state’s protocols for vaccine distribution and set new parameters for ending the state masking mandate.

“We are currently in the process of working through a system to begin expanding vaccine distribution specifically to the following groups; all Montanans of 70 years of age or older, and Montanans aged 16 to 69 that have specific underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable,” said Gianforte.

He said the state will open up the lines of communication with local health departments to help bring about the reduction of COVID cases.

“We are opening the lines of communication with local health departments, hospitals and other health care providers to find solutions to get the vaccines to this population as soon as possible,” he said. “This will not be simple. There will be challenges, but we are committed to prioritize protecting the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Again, Gianforte emphasized the role of personal responsibility to help bring the masking mandate to a close.

“To combat the virus, I believe providing incentives and promoting personal responsibility are more effective than imposing impractical mandates,” he said. “After we have increased vaccine distribution, and after I have legislation on my desk that protects businesses, schools, places of worship, and nonprofit organizations that follow guidelines from lawsuits, then we will rescind the current statewide masking mandate.”

Gianforte again nailed down the requirements for ending the mask mandate.

“We've laid out the criteria today,” he said. “We are going to repeal the mask mandate when the vaccine is more broadly available to the most vulnerable in our communities, and when I get protection for small businesses and nonprofits against losses, those are the two conditions. I hope to do that in weeks, not months. And we'll keep you posted.”

The revised vaccine distribution plan puts Montanans 70 years of age and older, Montanans 16 to 69 years of age that have an underlying severe medical condition, and Native Americans next in line for the vaccine, after frontline health care workers.

Gianforte emphasized again that he will wear a mask in the Capitol building and hopes everyone else will follow his example.

 

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