State mask mandate ends Friday

Gianforte signs protective legislation, says vaccine numbers are encouraging
Thursday, February 11, 2021
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The three links above are directives issued on Friday morning, Feb. 12, 2021


Gov. Greg Gianforte made the surprise announcement Wednesday afternoon that the state’s mask mandate will be dropped this Friday.

After signing Senate Bill No. 65, which gives legal protection to businesses, churches, schools and other groups against COVID-19 lawsuits when it can be shown that standard precautions have been followed, Gianforte said he was doing away with masks, saying he was encouraged by the state’s vaccination numbers.

According to the state’s vaccination dashboard, 41,539 Montanans are now fully vaccinated. That means they have had both shots.

Gianforte had initially said he would not drop the mask mandate until everyone in distribution Phase 1B had been vaccinated. Last week, Gianforte said at a press conference that demand was exceeding the state’s supply of vaccine and that more was being requested from the federal government.

Gianforte redefined the Phase 1B group as those ages 70 and older and those with specific medical conditions, including cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, Down Syndrome, heart conditions, immunocompromised conditions, severe obesity, sickle cell disease, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, any others that a medical provider determines.

The governor had previously said there are about 250,000 people that fall under Phase 1B. As of Wednesday, Feb. 10, there had been 41,539 Montanans fully vaccinated, meaning they had received both shots, according to the state's vaccine dashboard. There had been 149,263 total doses administered.

In Stillwater County, that state map listed 227 people as being fully vaccinated and 748 residents having received the first dose. Those numbers represent only residents and not the county in which they were vaccinated.

There are a total of 7,886 Stillwater County residents listed as eligible for the vaccination.

In Yellowstone County, the largest county in the state, only 28,897 people have been fully immunized, according to the state’s dashboard. There are 127,729 Yellowstone County residents listed as being eligible for the vaccination.

Gianforte said optimistic about the strides being made toward getting the 1B group vaccinated and that the White House has had told him there is about to be a modest increase of vaccine. Gianforte also mentioned the pending approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that would help in vaccination efforts as well.

Playing heavily into his decision was the completion of the first clinics at all nursing homes and long term care facilities in the state, coupled with the continued downward trend in deaths and number of new cases.

The governor also said that local governments are to keep local mask mandates in place, but that on Friday, he will formally issue a mandate that disolves the state's mask requirement. That directive will also include potential changes with other current state directives.


As of Wednesday, Feb. 10, Stillwater County’s COVID-19 active case count was 14. There have been 12 deaths and 649 recovered cases, for a total count of 675. Using a population number of 9,698, Stillwater County’s positivity rate would be 6.9 percent. That is up just a whisper from 6.8 percent last week.


As of Wednesday, 1,320 Montanans had died from COVID-19 related issues, marking a 1.4 percent death rate of all confirmed cases. That remained unchanged from last week.

Seventeen people died during the last seven days.


Statewide, 1,001,074 COVID-19 tests had been administered by Wednesday, Feb. 10, with 96,595 positive cases. That is a 9.5 percent positivity rate on those tested. That is up from 10 percent last week.

Using the population number of 1,068,771, the state positivity rate would be 8.9 percent, which remains unchanged from last week.

In the last 62 days — Dec. 11, 2020, through Feb. 10, 2021 — that daily average new case number was 479.6. That is down from 507 last week and 533 two weeks ago.

The number of recovered cases versus active cases continues to stretch, 3,027 and 92,248 respectively.


Hospitalizations dropped to 108. It was 121 last week. Two weeks ago, that number was 199.

As of Feb. 10, none of the state’s largest 10 hospitals were at 90 percent capacity or higher, according to the state’s COVID-19 Hospital Occupancy and Capacity Status report.

Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Health Care, Benefis Hospitals, St. Peters Health, St. James Healthcare and Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital were between 70 and 90 percent capacity.

Of the state’s four specialty hospitals, two were listed at more than 90 percent capacity — The Rehabilitation Hospital of Montana and Shodair Children’s Hospital.

Of the 50 critical access hospitals, only the Crow Northern Cheyenne Hospital listed at more than 90 percent capacity.


As of Feb. 8, there were 6,135 students and staff at Montana public schools who had tested positive for the virus. An additional 3,149 students and staff at 24 state “universities” had also tested positive, according to the report.

There were also 40 students and staff who had tested positive at Stillwater public schools.


National numbers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Wednesday showed a total of 27,263,914 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and 470,6000 deaths. That is a 1.7 percent death rate in confirmed cases and remains unchanged from last week. Using national population numbers — which range from 328, 239, 523 to 331,117,471 — the national positivity rate for those tested is approximately 8.3 percent. That is up from 8.1 percent last week and 7.8, 7.4 and 7 percent the three weeks prior.

Sources for the above information include the CDC, Stillwater Community Health, the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force and the U.S. Census Bureau.