Montana governor cancels statewide mask order, stresses ‘personal responsibility’

President Joe Biden may be telling Americans that they ought to mask up until at least 2022 in order to steer clear of the coronavirus, but not everyone is on board with that idea.

Montana’s Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte kept a campaign promise on Friday by officially lifting the statewide mask mandate first imposed by his predecessor, Steve Bullock (D), last July, The Hill reported.

Governor stresses personal responsibility

Gianforte had reportedly been waiting for legislation to pass that would protect businesses, health care providers, houses of worship and nonprofit organizations from lawsuits over COVID-19 cases and potential exposures, and also for a vaccine to become available to some of the most at-risk populations, before canceling the order.

With those benchmarks met, the governor signed the legislation into law on Wednesday and announced that the mask mandate would be halted by the end of the week.

“We will continue to provide incentives to protect the health and safety and we will emphasize personal responsibility over mandates,” Gianforte said Wednesday, according to The Hill. “When it comes down to it, I trust Montanans, and together we can combat this public health and economic pandemic with personal responsibility and by looking out for one another.”

Counties keep mandates

So far, about 46,000 people in Montana have been fully vaccinated, which critics decry as far from optimal, The Hill notes. Even so, hospitalizations and deaths are declining in the state.

In the meantime, Gianforte says he will continue to wear a mask on his own accord and said that counties and municipalities are free to keep mask mandates in place if they wish to do so.

“Since we’re not out of the woods yet, I will continue wearing a mask, and I encourage all Montanans to do the same to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors,” the governor said, according to The Hill.

Reports indicate several counties and cities in the state are keeping mask mandates in place for now, including Lewis and Clark, Gallatin, Butte-Silver Bow, and Missoula counties, along with the city of Whitefish and several of Montana’s Native American reservations.

The right call

While localities may be slow to follow, other governors should take note of peers like Gianforte and Ron DeSantis of Florida, who understand that it’s not their role to indefinitely impose rules on their constituents.

With the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine in full swing, a shift should take place to allow people to decide for themselves the level of risk they want to take and the steps they want to take to mitigate that risk.

Under the U.S. Constitution, it is not and never will be the government’s responsibility to keep everyone 100% safe from any and all harm — and the sooner our leaders understand this truth, the better off we all will be.

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