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Thank you, Gov. Steve Bullock.

On Wednesday, Bullock announced a requirement for all to wear masks in counties with four or more active cases of coronavirus. The move takes the burden off local officials – including the Gallatin City-County Board of Health – who have been facing resistance to imposing the requirement locally.

The wearing of masks is vitally important, and Montana joins some 25 other states requiring masks. The masks have been shown to help prevent the spread of the deadly virus. In Connecticut, where masks have been required since April, the infection rate is among the lowest in the nation.

The universal use of masks is a much-preferred alternative to returning to the stay-home order that locked down the entire economy. That’s clearly where we were headed as infections have been rising rapidly since the economy was reopened.

The mandate is imposed in 25 of Montana’s 56 counties where there are at least four active cases. It requires masks be worn in indoor public spaces, such as businesses and government offices, and at outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people. The mandate excludes children under the age of 5 and those with medical conditions that prevent the wearing of a mask. Those exercising or swimming are also exempted.

The mask mandate will still meet resistance. But now local businesses can cite the statewide mandate to deny service to customers who refuse to wear masks and call for help from local law enforcement when unmasked customers refuse to leave.

The extent to which this issue has been politicized is both vexing and astonishing. According to a June 23 Pew Research poll, 88% of Americans wear a mask all of the time or some of the time when in public spaces. But a stubborn knot of resistors says they don’t believe the science on the virus and think it doesn’t pose a threat. Or they cling to some perceived notion their rights are being violated by a mask mandate.

This resistance has devolved to the point of being a danger to us all. As Bullock said in announcing the mandate, “An individual might think they have a constitutional right to get sick if they so choose, but they don’t have a constitutional right to get other people sick.”

And wearing a mask is a proven way to prevent that.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

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