BOZEMAN — Gallatin County, as well as many other areas now, have had a full weekend without face-covering rules after the Gallatin City-County Health Department followed CDC guidance and lifted those restrictions on Friday.
The health officer says while it will no longer be enforced, businesses can choose to continue following their own mask rules and many are.
It’s been an action that’s been coming for more than a year: lifting the emergency health regulations and restrictions across Gallatin County by the pen of Gallatin County Health Officer Matt Kelley.
But for businesses like here in Downtown Bozeman, those few days since last Friday were an entire weekend of sales and other business, so for them, it’s been extra unique.
As the owner of Country Bookshelf says, among others, it’s better safe than sorry.
“We figure it doesn’t cost us anything to err on the side of caution,” says Ariana Paliobagis, owner of Country Bookshelf.
To Paliobagis and her staff at Country Bookshelf, the rules have become a part of neighborly caution, from the front door to the welcome mat that depicts a large, white mask.
“We’ve decided to continue requiring masks because children and some adults still cannot get vaccinated so we want to look out for the people who work here and the people who shop here, our whole community,” Paliobagis says.
We are not there for popularity. We are there to look out for each other.
Her business is not the only one.
Walk up and down Main Street and you’ll see that many businesses still bear signs requiring masks upon entry.
“We can’t know people’s vaccination status,” Paliobagis says. “We’re not going to ask.”
A contentious issue...
One scan of the comments on one of our stories related to the lifting of face coverings in Gallatin County shows a variety of mixed responses and criticism, some calling the rule-lift words like “a joke.”
Others, praising the health department’s update.
Kelley says the decision comes after two weeks of COVID-19 decline.
“Consistently as the board has met, they have worked to take down those rules as the epidemiology has allowed them to do that,” Kelley says. “Monday, I’m pretty sure we are going to get to a point where we hit that threshold of two weeks under 25 cases per day.”
As of Friday last week, the county was down to about 13.6 people per 100,000.
And Kelley says about 43 percent of Gallatin County’s eligible population had been fully vaccinated.
He also adds that now the health department cannot enforce face coverings.
Meanwhile, Bozeman Health will continue requiring masks and other facilities like schools will likely continue making them a requirement.
Other larger stores, nationwide, such as Trader Joes and Walmart, also announced that fully vaccinated workers and customers do not have to wear a mask if fully vaccinated.
To Paliobagis, she says the continued precaution comes from good intentions and a little goes a long way.
“That makes all of the difference in the world, knowing that there are other people who support your decision, even if it is a little unpopular with some people,” Paliobagis says. “We are not there for popularity. We are there to look out for each other.”