Local mask guidelines released

Sam Klomhaus — Enterprise Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Individuals and businesses repeatedly and egregiously not complying with Montana’s COVID-19 mask mandate may be cited or otherwise subject to enforcement by the county, according to guidelines released by the Park County Health Department.

The department released Tuesday a “frequently asked questions” guide regarding the implementation of the mask mandate for businesses, especially restaurants and bars.

The mask mandate is in place in Park County regardless of the number of active cases, the Livingston-Park County Health Board ruled earlier this month.

The mandate states: “All businesses, government offices, or other persons responsible for indoor spaces open to the public shall require and take reasonable measures to ensure that all employees, contractors, volunteers, customers, or other members of the public wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose at all times while entering or remaining in [those] indoor spaces.”

Park County added two reported cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the county’s total number of cases to 44, with 10 active.

According to the FAQ, “Businesses can deny entry, refuse services to, or ask any person who refuses to wear a mask to leave the premises. If such a person refuses to wear a face covering or leave the premises, law enforcement officers may enforce the state’s trespassing laws and any other laws the person may violate.”

However, according to the document, business owners should focus first on education and warnings, “while reserving the imposition of penalties, trespass enforcement, and other formal enforcement mechanisms for only the most egregious, repeat violations that put the public at risk.”

Park County Sheriff added his name, along with many other Montana sheriffs, to an editorial dated July 17 that stated “The statewide face covering order is a public health directive. The directive is not a mandate for law enforcement to issue citations and arrest violators.”

The editorial also stated, “We will continue to focus our efforts on education and encourage citizens to make public health and safety related decisions based on your own personal circumstances and exposure to and interactions with vulnerable populations. Washing your hands, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and wearing masks are all ways to take personal responsibility.”

Restaurants and bars should have and use policies for protective equipment, social distancing, symptom screening, testing, sanitation and disinfection of common high-traffic areas, according to the guidelines.

If businesses themselves don’t comply with the mandate, according to the guidelines, they can be cited, although penalties should only be handed out to egregious, repeat violations that put the public at risk.

The mandate can be enforced by the Montana Attorney General, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the county attorney, according to the FAQ.

Those with COVID-19 symptoms should not be allowed to work, according to the FAQ.

According to the guidelines, masks are required when entering or exiting a bar or restaurant, when going from the host stand to a table, when seated at a table, when ordering, when using the bathroom and/or when walking through the inside of a business. 

Sitting at bars or counters is not allowed, according to the document.

“Masks do NOT need to be worn while seated at a table consuming food or drinks inside the bar/restaurant,” the guidelines state.

Visible signs saying “Mask or face covering use required for ages five and older” shall be posted at points of entry open to the public, according to the FAQ.

Hard copies of signs can be found at the chambers of commerce in Livingston, Gardiner, and Cooke City, and a printable copy can be found here: https://park-county-coronavirus-response-parkcounty.hub.arcgis.com/pages....

Bars and restaurants don’t need to provide masks for guests, according to the FAQ, but they do need to provide masks for staff.

“Public facing” workers, including servers, hosts/hostesses, cashiers and bartenders, should wear masks at all times, according to the guidelines.

Kitchen staff don’t have to wear masks if social distancing is possible, according to the guidelines, but do have to wear masks if the kitchen is public facing.

If an employee has a medical condition that prevents the use of a mask, according to the document, the employee needs a note from a medical professional verifying the condition.

For outdoor seating, according to the document, “Anytime, even outside, that social distancing is not possible or is not observed, businesses must require and take reasonable measures to ensure that customers/patrons wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose.”

Customers sitting outside must wear a mask is they have to enter the business, according to the document.

Employees of drive-thru coffee kiosks are required to wear masks when interacting with the public, but customers are not required to wear masks, although it is encouraged, according to the FAQ.

If an employee is operating machinery or performing another task in which a cloth mask could pose a hazard, according to the document, a mask is not required, although an alternative such as a face shield is recommended.

Face shields count as face coverings, the document notes.

Masks can be purchased at Livingston Ace Hardware, Out of the Blue in Livingston, Murdoch’s, the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce, a stand in Gardiner just south of the Gardiner Market, Stop The Car in Silver Gate, Glenn’s Shopping Center in Clyde Park, the Montana Brewery Shop in Livingston and the Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce.

Custom masks are available at Markouture in Livingston and Mountain Air in Livingston.

According to the document, exceptions to the mask mandate include children under age five, although masks are recommended for children between ages two and four.

Exceptions also include people consuming food or drinks, people communicating with someone who is hearing impaired, people giving speeches or similar performances (provided the audience is at least six feet away), people removing their masks for identification purposes, or for medical evaluation, the FAQ states.

The health department will hold a conference call question and answer session at 10:30 a.m. Thursday for business owners with questions about the mandate.

“We know bar and restaurant owners, managers, employees and even customers have a lot of questions about wearing masks in these establishments,” Dr. Laurel Desnick, Park County health officer, said Tuesday in a press release.

To call in, dial (571) 748-4021, with the access code 6681791#. More call-in Q&As are planned for the coming weeks, the health department said. For more information, contact the health department at (406) 222-4145.