Governor Steve Bullock, a politician seemingly always down to one-up himself, announced on Wednesday he was extending a statewide mask mandate to both public and private K-12 schools, requiring the use of masks for any county with four or more active cases of the coronavirus and insinuating any school not following suite may be shut down.
Bullock did not say on what scientific basis counties with four or more active cases, but not 5 would be on the hook, but at the time of writing, 28 counties were at that threshold including all 8 of the state’s most populous counties.
While the Big Sky Country has had these mandates in place for weeks now, the original directive exempted schools. But now Bullock and his collective of co-conspirators, energized by the fuel that comes with lording his power over the people, will require all 145,000 students, including children as young as 5 and in kindergarten, to mask up.
During his press conference, Bullock stated that school boards who came up with own plans to safely re-open their schools that did not include a hard demand that masks are worn by all would be overridden, as the use of masks were non-negotiable.
At the end of the day we all have that same goal of making sure that our kids can return to school safely. However, for those (districts) that are strongly encouraging the wearing of masks or face coverings in buildings, I do fear that that won’t be enough to keep those teachers and students safe. Every other public and government building requires face coverings. And there’s no principled reason why the same shouldn’t be the case in our schools.
There are no option for parents to opt-out or to attain a religious exemption. Medical exemptions may be given, but it is not known at this time what level of personal medical and health information would have to be divulged in order to receive this reprieve.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, a Republican, issued a statement following Governor Steve Bullock’s press conference Wednesday, blasting him for the unilateral flex:
The Governor made a last-minute decision days before school begins and has once again left the Office of Public Instruction in the dark in his decision-making related to safely reopening schools. I have in multiple efforts asked for clarification and collaboration and the Governor continues to be vacant...
Surveys and conversations with parents, teachers, and communities have already occurred at the local level as school boards determined their school safety reopening plans. School districts and communities will now have to go back to the drawing board. The Governor’s lack of acknowledgment of state education experts is a disservice to Montana’s students, families, and educators.
The state has now reported 5,268 total cases since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak and 80 deaths, with the overwhelming majority of them being over the age of 70. Students and children have nearly zero percent chance of dying from the novel coronavirus if caught.