Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana delivered mask fanatics a hefty, but essential, blow last week when he signed House Bill 257 into law, stripping the few remaining left-leaning health departments in the state of their ability to use their clout and control to dominate the population through unquestioned mask enforcement. The bill declares that counties can no longer require businesses to enforce health mandates, such as mask-wearing or capacity limits and restrictions, or pursue other whimsical edicts or decrees, such as cancel farmer’s markets, prohibit school parades, ban families of spectators at high-school athletic events.
While most Montana counties and towns (including Billings, the largest city in the state with a population of approximately 110,000) removed their mask mandates several weeks, if not months, ago, the university-dominated cities of Missoula and Bozeman, as well as the small, politically mixed capital city of Helena, seemed to be only tightening the screws on chronic mask-wearing. They repeatedly hid, changed, or lied about the markers and metrics for mask mandates’ removal, inexplicably shifting from one theoretical possibility or scenario to another. In the meantime, COVID-19 vaccinations have increased to the point where testing sites and vaccination camps are virtually empty, hospitalizations have plummeted to nonexistent, and deaths from the virus have fallen to the level somewhere between venomous snake bites and automotive fatalities. Yet paradoxically, the healthier and the more strengthened the state, and the more that it has recovered from the numbing side effects of the shameful lockdowns, the further away the remaining mask-obsessed health departments have pushed the date of mask abolition.
Without House Bill 257, the remaining communities would have stayed perennially under the twisted, tight-fisted influence of a handful of marginally knowledgeable, power-intoxicated, unelected bureaucrats who were playing the “follow the Fauci” model of single-minded governance. Wear a mask. Wear a mask. Wear a mask. In fact, it would not be hard to imagine a scenario in which one government employee with a mask fetish would continue to bully the populace, terrorizing the summer camps into outside mask-wearing through the hottest days of August or perpetuating mask requirements for children straight into the fall of 2021 or beyond.