As statewide COVID-19 numbers and hospitalizations continue to drop, multiple news outlets (including AP News) are reporting that Montana's newly elected Republican Governor Greg Gianforte has announced he is lifting nearly all COVID-19 restrictions that have been in place since former Democratic Governor Steve Bullock issued them last spring and throughout late 2020.

Effective Friday morning (1/15) bars, casinos, restaurants, breweries and other businesses will no longer be required to close at 10 pm. There will no longer be capacity limits at businesses or public gatherings. Instead, Gianforte is encouraging Montanans to take "personal responsibility" and suggests businesses follow recommendations provided the CDC and industry groups.

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The only remaining statewide mandate that remains is the mask mandate, which Gianforte indicated last week he intends to remove once additional vaccines have been administered to vulnerable members of the population and pending the state legislatures passage of the Liability Protections Bill. Gianforte said in a press release last week,

We need to protect businesses and schools from lawsuits if they make a good faith effort to protect individuals from the spread of coronavirus and follow clear public health guidelines. To combat the virus, I believe providing incentives and promoting personal responsibility are more effective than imposing impractical mandates.

The announcement today follows last weeks press release from the Yellowstone County Health Department, in which director John Felton rescinded county COVID-19 restrictions. The Montana Response COVID-19 Tracking Map notes there are 597 new cases in the state (as of 1/13) and  81,676 Montanans have recovered from the virus. 1,067 have died. There are currently 199 active hospitalizations and 4,908 active cases statewide.

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