At the monthly Missoula County Board of Health meeting on Thursday, the 7 member board voted unanimously to pass the mandatory masking order for all businesses licensed by the city and for all establishments inspected by the City County Health Department.

Board Chair Ross Miller made the announcement following the vote.

“The Missoula County Commissioners represented by Chairman Josh Slotnick, Missoula Mayor John Engen, and the Missoula City County Board of Health represented by myself as chairman, stand together to present this rule to the public by this unified group of city and county leaders,” said Miller. “At the same time this face covering rule was enacted by the Board of Health, Missoula City County Health Officer Ellen Leahy signed a similar companion order. In summary, the rule requires use of masks or face coverings by all employees and volunteers and members of the public in all indoor settings to which the public is required or invited to enter.”

Several community leaders were invited to a press conference following the meeting and provided comments on the passage of the mandatory masking order. Mayor John Engen said the order was needed at this time.

“This is a common sense step forward during a time when this virus is on the rise, not on the wane,” said Engen. “It provides consistency throughout the community, gives businesses guidance, creates a level playing field and creates expectations in the community that we can all acknowledge.”

Health Officer Leahy expressed her gratitude to all the community leaders and others who have given her support during the pandemic.

“We had so much support, and we recognize that in this community,” said Leahy. “Support to do some of the really hard things and not step back from them. I hope this helps everyone who has been trying to do more with masks and needed your support to do so, so thank you for that.”

When asked about the rule within the order that states ‘it does not create an individual requirement, and therefore, an individual who refuses to wear a mask cannot be subject to criminal penalty under this statute’, Commissioner Slotnick said the onus is on the business to insist on compliance.

“Of course the individuals aren’t going to get a ticket,” said Slotnick. “The idea here is that businesses will comply with the health order in the same way that licenses establishments comply with health orders now. So, if someone is in a business and they’re not wearing a mask, it’s the businesses’ responsibility to ask them to put on a mask or ask them to leave.”

The new mandate takes effect immediately according to the City County Health Department.

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