Gov. Gianforte preserves former Gov. Bullock’s COVID-19 directives

Updated executive order preserves access to tele-health, other directives

Gov. Greg Gianforte speaks after being sworn in to office on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 in the Governor's Reception Room of the Montana State Capitol. (Photo by Thom Bridge of the Helena Independent Record)

Gov. Greg Gianforte updated his COVID-19 executive order Thursday to clarify that directives put in place by former Gov. Steve Bullock will remain in effect as long as they do not conflict with Gianforte’s new executive order.

The update to Republican Gianforte’s executive order also states that all government-issued regulations that rely on Democrat Bullock’s orders will remain in place. Had his order not been updated, Bullock’s directives that did things like increase access to tele-health and extend motor-vehicle deadlines would have expired, Gianforte’s office confirmed Thursday.

But Gianforte’s updated executive order, which will go into effect Friday morning, will override Bullock’s previous directives that limited business hours and capacity as well as public gathering sizes. At a press conference Wednesday, Gianforte announced he will be lifting the 10 p.m. closing restrictions and 50% capacity limits of bars, restaurants and casinos and remove restrictions on public gathering sizes.

The change to update the order was made “to ensure continuity of important pandemic programs,” Gianforte spokeswoman Brooke Stroyke said via email.

Gianforte’s new order will also include a statewide mask mandate, though he has said he plans to rescind that when vaccinations are ramped up and liability legislation protecting businesses from lawsuits over potential COVID-19 exposure is passed.

Thursday, The Daily Montanan asked whether directives enacted by Bullock, such as the increased access to tele-health, would have expired when Gianforte’s order went into effect. Stroyke confirmed that was the case.

“Once Gianforte’s directive goes into effect tomorrow, it replaces Governor Bullock’s directives,” Stroyke said.

An updated version of Gianforte’s executive order was provided to media later Thursday afternoon with the following additions:

  • All directives issued pursued to EO 2-2020 and EO 3-2020 continue to remain in force insofar as they do not conflict with the January 13, 2021, Directive regarding public gatherings, business, schools and masks.
  • All government-issued regulations that rely on EO 2-2020 and EO 3-2020 remain in
    effect pursuant to EO 2-2021.

In an interview prior to the updated directive, Kendall Cotton, CEO of the Frontier Institute, said he was worried tele-health options would disappear if Bullock’s directives weren’t preserved.

“Thousands of Montana patients have benefited from tele-health for the first time because of (Bullock’s) directive that waived regulations,” Cotton said. The earlier directive, preserved with Gianforte’s order, allows Montanans to continue to participate in tele-health appointments via phone only and does not require a pre-existing provider and patient relationship to provide tele-health services.

Gov. Greg Gianforte's updated executive order 2-2021