Jefferson County Health Officer Sandy Sacry on April 2 lifted the directive requiring that masks be worn in public spaces.
The county has met the criteria for its repeal, as outlined in the directive that went into effect on Feb. 19.
The criteria includes the county having less than 25 cases per 100,000 population for the past two weeks, as well as the availability of vaccines for those 60 or older, educators and at-risk people, according to a statement released by Sacry.
There were four active cases in Jefferson County as of April 5, according to the Public Health Department.
Sacry continues to support face coverings.
“We encourage people to continue to wear masks in public settings or gatherings. The community can do its part by getting the vaccine and encouraging others to do so and continuing to follow COVID-19 safety protocols,” said Sacry.
Jefferson County’s mask requirement was enacted a week after Gov. Greg Gianforte lifted the state-wide mandate that had been in place since July of last year.
The county also began offering vaccines to everyone age 18 and older on April 1, and that move was based on a directive from the state.
There are 10,077 Jefferson County residents eligible for a
COVID-19 vaccination, and of those, 2,006 are fully immunized— or 22% of the eligible population, according to data reported April 5 from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
The county’s positivity rate is 4.9% for March 10-23, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services. That means that 4.9% of those tested for COVID-19 are positive for the virus. This is a decrease from last fall, when the positivity rate reached a high of nearly 30%.
Whitehall School Board letter
Last month, the Whitehall School Board attorney sent a letter to the Jefferson County Health Board, challenging the mask directive issued by the health officer.
That challenge has been dropped given the repeal of the mask requirement, said Whitehall School Board Chairperson Gina Ossello.
The School Board had threatened the Health Board with legal action, alleging that the directive was issued without public notice and a chance for the public to be heard. The mask directive was issued directly by the health officer, which is allowed by state statute without a public hearing. However, it was signed by Health Board Chairperson Christina Binkowski, who said that was to acknowledge the action by the health officer. It was Binkowski’s signature on the order that sparked the threat by the Whitehall School Board.
With the mask directive repealed, face coverings will now be optional in Whitehall schools, said Ossello.
Masks are still required at Clancy Elementary School and any change would require action by the School Board, said Superintendent David Selvig.
Masks also remain required at Montana City School, according to K-2 and 6-8 Principal Daryl Mikesell.
The same goes for Jefferson High School at this time, according to Superintendent Tim Norbeck.
Boulder Elementary did not respond to an inquiry by press time.