All information in this COVID-19 Response Resource issue is effective as of July 21, 2020.
On July 15, 2020, Governor Steve Bullock issued a directive making the use of face coverings mandatory in Montana, for certain settings. The directive is only enforceable against businesses and other persons who open their space to the public. Beginning immediately, the mandatory use of face coverings will be enforced against businesses in two main areas: “indoor spaces open to the public,” and “organized outdoor activities.”
Masks are now mandatory “in [i]ndoor space[s] open to the public.” These spaces include businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants but also encompass general public spaces like elevators, lobbies and restrooms. Businesses are required to make sure that all employees, customers and other members of the public within the space are wearing face coverings. Those responsible for the space are also required to have a sign stating “Mask or face covering use required for ages five and older.” As an enforcement mechanism, patrons or members of the public who refuse to wear a face covering inside the space after being asked may be cited for trespassing by a peace officer.
Masks are also mandatory for “certain organized outdoor activities.” This mandate applies to outdoor activities that are organized or sponsored by a business, such as markets, beer gardens and fairs. Face coverings are required at these events where there are 50 or more people and where social distancing is not possible or is not observed. For these outdoor activities, the organizer is responsible to “take reasonable measures to ensure” that people are wearing the appropriate face coverings.
Importantly, enforcement of Governor Bullock’s directive is aimed at education of the public, reserving penalties for “the most egregious, repeat violations that put the public at risk.”
Several exceptions apply to the Governor’s directive. First, the directive only applies to counties in Montana where there “are four or more confirmed and active COVID-19 cases.” Children under the age of five are also not required to wear face coverings under the directive. Other exceptions include where wearing a face covering may be impractical or unsafe, or where a medical condition precludes a face covering. Businesses are allowed under the directive to reasonably rely in good faith on an employee or patron’s representation that one of the exceptions applies. That reasonable reliance “is an affirmative and complete defense to any enforcement proceeding brought” under the directive.
Parsons Behle & Latimer’s attorneys are knowledgeable about the Governor’s directive and can help you implement its specific requirements at your place of business. For help to determine how the Governor’s directive affects your business, please contact Liz Mellem at (406) 333.0530 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.