Governor-elect Greg Gianforte held his first press conference via ZOOM on Friday, and his first priority was all about Montana’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“First and foremost, we have to recognize we're in the midst of a public health crisis,” said Gianforte. “The trends right now are alarming and it's clear we need to get a better handle on this virus. Among my first actions as Governor-elect was to request a COVID-19 briefing and to establish a COVID-19 Task Force. The task force will help chart the best path forward for Montana.”

Gianforte said the task force members contain a wide spectrum of specialties.

“It represents Montana well, with small business owners, health care professionals, researchers, educators, and local and tribal leaders,” he said. “It represents voices from throughout our state. I'm grateful to all the members for their hard work and commitment to our communities. The task force is working diligently to provide recommendations on how best to manage this crisis in Montana.”

He said the task force will be looking for guidance from the public on how to best meet the challenge of the pandemic.

“The work of the task force is transparent, from its membership to its meetings, and we're asking Montanans to help with our state's response,” he said. “We want to hear from folks about what's working, what's not working, and what they think should be improved. I encourage encouraged Montanans to have their voices heard by going to Montana and click on the COVID-19 tab, and you can put your comments in there.”

About a masking mandate, Gianforte said he would lead by example.

“As we continue to confront this virus, my priority remains protecting the most vulnerable, while also safely and fully reopening our economy,” he said. “The news we have seen about vaccines is very promising, and it gives us great optimism, though it will take some time for widespread distribution. In the meantime, I encourage Montanans to take care of their loved ones and neighbors and to protect their health and well being. I trust Montanans to do what's right. I choose to wear a mask and I encourage others to do the same.”

There was no indication that Gianforte would introduce a mandatory masking policy after he is sworn into office in January.


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