(KPAX) HELENA — Gov. Greg Gianforte held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to provide an update on the state’s response to COVID-19. The governor was joined by Maj. Gen. Matt Quinn, the director of the state COVID-19 Task Force.
Gianforte today issued a new directive to replace several directives related to the pandemic.
“Improving our response to the pandemic has been my top priority,” Gianforte said. “Today, I am issuing a new directive that removes or replaces the cumbersome layers of the existing ones. These new directives are clear. They are practical. They are commonsense. And they are easy to understand.”
The new directive acknowledges the diversity of challenges businesses face in the pandemic and affords them the flexibility to develop and implement appropriate policies based on industry best practices, a news release states.
“We can reduce the burden on our small business owners while simultaneously protecting the health of Montana workers and customers. These are not mutually exclusive,” Gianforte said.
Where industry best practices do not exist, the governor’s directive states that “such policies should be developed and implemented in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations and guidance.”
The directive also replaces the 25-person limit on public gatherings with simple guidance that “any public gatherings or events should be managed in a way that accommodates CDC social distancing guidelines.”
Gianforte said on Jan. 5 that he does plan to repeal the statewide mask mandate, but the change will not happen until certain criteria are met.
The governor 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and protections against lawsuits for schools, businesses, and non-profits in place before the current mandate is repealed.
He said that any changes will happen once “clear and practical” guidelines are in place. He added that 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.
Gianforte said that he wants to see additional COVID vaccinations and is trying to move away from directives and toward incentives.