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Lake County rescinds mask directive

by CAROLYN HIDY
Lake County Leader | March 16, 2021 3:30 PM

Lake County commissioners voted unanimously to rescind Resolution 20-4, put in place March 17, 2020, which declared a state of emergency in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The action was taken Tuesday during a special meeting of the Lake County Board of Commissioners and Board of Health, after hearing public comments given at the meeting and submitted in writing.

Commissioner Bill Barron read aloud a letter signed by leadership of several health care facilities and schools supporting maintaining the mitigative measures in place for the time being. Barron said he had come into the meeting intending to vote to support continuing the emergency declaration but was swayed by arguments that keeping a long-term emergency declaration in place dilutes the heightened awareness that an emergency typically has, like “running with your siren and lights flashing all the time,” as one commenter said.

CSKT Tribal Chair Shelly Fyant said she disagreed with the decision, which may force the dissolution of the Unified Command Center that had worked so well.

In a second unanimous vote that included the commissioners plus Board of Health citizen members Logan Lloyd and Barbara Markham, the mask directive that had been in place was not renewed. Commissioner Gale Decker explained that the directive had never been used to ticket anyone, but had functioned more as guidance and a recommendation.

The Board adopted in its place a motion to support Gov. Greg Gianforte’s Feb. 12 directives and executive orders, which the governor said “encourage businesses to adopt industry best practices or public health guidance to protect their employees and customers,” and asks Montanans to “emphasize personal responsibility.” Gianforte said he would continue to wear a mask and encouraged Montanans to do so as well, “to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors.” Specific wording of the motion was not available.

Lake County Public Health on Monday reported 25 active COVID-19 cases in the county, with four current hospitalizations. Twenty-seven Lake County deaths have been attributed to the pandemic since it emerged a year ago.