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Montana governor lifts statewide mask mandate


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HELENA, Montana (AP) — Montana’s statewide mask mandate that had been in place since July was lifted Friday by Gov. Greg Gianforte, but some cities and counties are keeping local mask requirements because they think the governor’s move was premature.

Gianforte, a Republican, promised the day after assuming office in January that he would lift the state’s mask mandate once there were liability protections in place for businesses and health care providers, and once enough vulnerable Montana residents were vaccinated against COVID-19.

The governor said this week that both requirements had been met. Gianforte said he would continue to wear a mask and urged others to do so.

Among those keeping local mask rules are Lewis and Clark County, Gallatin County, Butte County, Missoula County, and the city of Whitefish.

Some public health officials are saying the state still hasn’t vaccinated enough vulnerable people to safely lift the mask mandate.

Fewer than 47,000 people in the state had received both doses of the vaccine as of Friday, according to state figures.

Gianforte’s announcement came as the Centers for Disease Control reaffirmed the importance of wearing masks, saying earlier in the week that face coverings remain an important tool to combat the spread of the virus.