Big Horn County drops mask mandate out of fear of losing state dollars

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Posted at 9:36 AM, May 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-23 11:38:02-04

Big Horn County's Public Health Board passed a new order Friday morning rescinding its current mask order. The move comes not because the threat of Covid is waning, but because of the threat of a loss of American Rescue Plan Act funding being doled out by the state.

It all has to do with House Bill 632 that lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Montana Legislature passed this spring, which cuts ARPA allotments to Montana counties that keep Covid restrictions that are stronger than state mandates.

A news release states that the health board realized that Covid is still a risk and that jeopardizing funding was the only reason for the move.

"Our County could lose 20% of that funding, including funding for infrastructure and broadband, and many other non-healthcare items if the mask mandate remains in place," the news release stated.

Big Horn County Public Health Officer Dr. Carol Greimann told Q2 that they didn't see a choice and that it's bizarre that one of the counties hit the hardest by Covid would have been penalized the most. She continues to urge everyone to get vaccinated and social distance.

Big Horn County has recorded 2,3681 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, the ninth-highest total in the state, according to county records. Big Horn had 11 active cases as of Friday and 71 deaths.