Despite the fact that the Big Sky State ranks dead last in coronavirus infections and deaths in the continental United States, Montana’s Democratic governor and U.S. Senate candidate, Steve Bullock, implemented a draconian mandatory mask mandate today that will require masks in public indoor places as well as outdoor places where social distancing cannot be maintained. Bullock’s news policy mirrors that of approximately twenty other states across America, all of whom have far greater infection rates than Montana and most of whom have Democrat Governors who seem to care little for the protection of civil liberties.
The mask rule applies to all counties with four or more active cases of coronavirus. Richland County, for example, one of the furthest eastern counties in the state, has 12 active cases according to a recent release by Health Department employee, Stephanie Ler (see here). Other rural counties are fair similarly. The New York Times coronavirus tracker reveals that there have been a total of 32 cases in total in Richland County, with 18 recovered. To our knowledge, no one has been hospitalized and there have been no deaths. Despite the relative calm in Richland County, zero death count, and only mild cases of the Wuhan Flu being reported, they will nonetheless have to endure the mask regulation.
There are exceptions provided within Bullock’s war-powers provision, including for children under five, people with medical conditions, those “performing” at an event or giving a speech, those working strenuously outside or exercising, and those removing the mask to be identified.
The order informs business owners that it is their right to deny entry to customers without masks and, if necessary, to call on law enforcement to remove customers who refuse to leave, charging them as trespassers.
The order does not say that business owners must tell customers to leave their property without a mask.
The infraction, so it seems, places the burden upon individuals, and not businesses, to ensure compliance with the governor’s orders.
Incidentally, the governor’s own citation of his previous order and various references to state law doe not specify that mandating masks is a part of his governmental authority. Rather, these aspects of state law deal with the ability to establish “quarantines” which are defined as “a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.”
Forcing otherwise healthy people who have not been exposed to a known infectious disease to wear a mask – which is a violation of bodily autonomy perpetrated upon healthy people – seems to be a breach of government authority, even during times of a supposed crisis.
The governor’s directive goes into place immediately. It is subject to the review of the Montana Supreme Court, which ruled in 1961 that such public health measures may not be done in a way that violates civil liberties or is “capricious and arbitrary.” One will be hard-pressed to argue that the mask mandate is not capricious and arbitrary when such measures are not taken for similar viruses that pose comparable risks to the public health.
It will be up to county sheriffs and county attorneys to cite and then prosecute perceived violations of this unconstitutional order. Montana citizens are encouraged to speak directly to both their county sheriff and county attorney to determine if they will violate their oaths of office in order to follow through on the governor’s directives.