Montana Nurses Association Chief Executive Officer Vicky Byrd, MSN, RN, issued the following statement following Governor Greg Gianforte’s announcement that he is canceling the statewide mask mandate imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The governor revealed his plans to lift the mask requirement as he signed legislation creating a shield for businesses, nonprofits, healthcare providers and other organizations from liability for exposure to COVID-19. MNA leader Byrd said:
“In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to infect an average of 273 Montanans every day and with new variants of the coronavirus being reported almost every week, our governor decides to back away from one of the actions most effective at stopping the spread of the virus: wearing a face mask.
“The governor’s lifting of the mask mandate directly contradicts the latest guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Just one day ago, the CDC recommended that people should wear two masks to slow the spread of coronavirus variants that may be more contagious than the original virus.
“Tens of thousands of Montanans will be waiting for weeks and months to be vaccinated. Nevertheless, Gov. Gianforte takes this action that runs counter to what our national and state medical and scientific experts are saying—a move that puts the communities of our state at greater risk.
“Until vaccination is widespread, the governor’s decision to ignore the medical science poses a threat to all Montanans. Masking, social distancing, and hand hygiene is the ONLY other way to combat this pandemic.
“As professional nurses working, day and night, 24/7, in hospitals and other facilities where COVID-19 patients are being treated, we know the essential protections that masks can provide. That’s why doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals in Montana, including MNA, have urged repeatedly that people wear masks to protect themselves and others.
MNA applauds the counties and localities maintaining science based CDC recommended mask mandates. MNA’s professional nurses are concerned lifting this mandate will cause an increase in cases, confusion between counties and localities, and overall, negatively impact our economy.