Masked shoppers

Shoppers wearing masks cross Tracy Avenue in downtown Bozeman Thursday, July 16, 2020.

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The city of Bozeman has purchased 10,000 face masks in effort to help local residents and businesses abide by Montana’s statewide mask mandate.

The city will spend about $8,500 out of its general fund on the mask shipment, which is expected to arrive next week. The disposal, one-time use face coverings cost about 50 cents each.

The city plans to request federal reimbursement that was made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security for the masks, according to City Manager Jeff Mihelich.

Mihelich said in an email that staff are still working out the details of how the masks will be distributed, but that many will be available for pick up at city hall.

Commissioner Michael Wallner proposed the idea of the city buying masks last Monday. He requested that Mihelich look into buying between 25,000 and 50,000 masks in response to Gallatin County considering a local mask mandate. A few days later, Gov. Steve Bullock put in place a statewide mask mandate.

“I firmly believe it’s time for the city to be a leader on providing face coverings,” Wallner said during the meeting.

Wallner said he hopes that by providing masks to residents, more will feel safe to shop at local businesses. He said widespread mask wearing will “ensure our long term economic security” in Bozeman.

Wallner’s request garnered support from the four others on the commission last Monday, so Mihelich was directed to carry out the request. Mihelich said at the meeting that he wasn’t sure the city would be able to secure a shipment as national shortages of personal protective equipment persist.

“With respect, I am very concerned about trying to get our hands on 25- to 50,000 masks,” Mihelich said.

The Washington Post reported earlier in July that state officials all over the country have struggled to get orders filled for masks, gowns and gloves, and that as a result, health care providers are either reusing protective equipment or not providing services.

Despite the shortages, the city was able to secure their shipment of 10,000 masks. Mayor Chris Mehl said the city intends to purchase more, up to 50,000, if demand is high enough. He said the goal of providing masks is to help people protect themselves and others when in public spaces.

“It allows (people) to be out in the community more safely,” Mehl said.

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Shaylee Ragar can be reached at sragar@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2607.