Yellowstone County’s top health official rescinded that county’s health orders on Thursday after Gov. Greg Gianforte signaled he would roll back the statewide mask mandate.

John Felton, the Yellowstone County Health Officer, said during a Thursday press conference that the county’s mandates, which were stricter than statewide orders, would immediately be rescinded. Those included gathering size limits that extended to churches, places of worship and other businesses like salons and gyms.

The county will still be subject to all statewide health orders, Felton said. 

Felton said he made the move “out of respect for Governor Gianforte’s authority to manage the pandemic according to his policies,” while also saying new daily COVID-19 cases have dropped from a peak of 106 per 100,000 people just before Thanksgiving to 34 per 100,000 last week. 

Gianforte earlier this week said he planned to cancel the statewide mask mandate and would consider reversing other health orders that limited gathering sizes and operation hours for some businesses. 

The move comes as at least one other municipal government in Montana, the city of Whitefish, on Monday passed a three-month mask mandate to take effect when Gianforte rescinds the state’s mask mandate. 

latest stories

Interior Secretary signs CSKT water compact

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland formally executed the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes water compact Friday, finalizing a long-running effort to negotiate an agreement that reconciles the tribes’ historic treaty rights with Montana’s modern water rights doctrine.

Montana hospitals in ‘dire’ straits as COVID rages

This week, hospitals from Billings to Missoula are instituting or preparing to institute a “crisis standard of care” under which medical services and supplies are rationed. While case numbers are still slightly lower than they were last winter during the virus’ previous peak, hospitals are being overwhelmed with COVID patients.

Chris covers Native American issues as a Report for America Corps member based in Billings. He also monitors the Montana Supreme Court, federal courts and criminal justice issues. Before joining MTFP in 2020, Chris most recently covered tribal affairs and Wyoming's Wind River Reservation for the Casper Star-Tribune, and has also reported for the Wisconsin State Journal. Contact Chris at caadland@montanafreepress.org, 406-465-3386 ext. 4, and follow @cjaadland on Twitter.