Masks Required Sign

GREAT FALLS - In July, Governor Steve Bullock issued a mask mandate in counties with four or more active COVID-19 cases. 

Since then, a lot of viewers have asked what's the difference between a mandate and a law? Many people say they are refusing to wear a mask because it's not a law. So, we looked into it.

A law and a mandate have the same power to be enforced. The only difference is how it came to be. 

A law is passed by the senate and the house of representatives and signed by the governor. A mandate is made by the governor, with the power given to them by the legislature in a state of emergency. 

Overall, a mandate has the same effect as a law. Health officers in the state have said everyone must comply with the Governor's mandate, which makes the mandate enforceable by health officers and police. 

“Anybody that is not in compliance with that directive is in violation of the law essentially because they are in violation of a direct order. So, that’s what makes the mandate a law. That makes it enforceable by us, by law enforcement. And there are quite a few different things that can be enforced on top of the violation of a direct order from a health officer," said Megan Spry, the registered sanitarian for the Central Montana Health District.  

Other charges can be added if you don't follow the mandate. 

“Business owners are instructed to contact law enforcement and law enforcement is then instructed to say well we’re going to cite you for trespassing if you don’t leave the premise… When I see businesses that are out of compliance then it’s my job to enforce. Unfortunately, I usually have to threaten to shut them down, which I don’t want to do," said Spry. 

She says she tries to educate businesses first and she doesn't like to get law enforcement involved unless it's needed. 

Spry also says employees within businesses don't have to wear a mask unless someone is in the store or is consistently busy. 

Executive orders have declared a state of emergency exists in Montana due to the global pandemic. So the mask mandate won't end until the state of emergency does.

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