But Swanson said the rollout of the mask order didn’t give him or others in charge of enforcing it enough time to prepare. Locally, he’s worried the new enforcement responsibility will overburden the Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office, which he said has been responding to an increasing number of calls this year.
Swanson and other county attorneys, as well as some members of the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, had opposed the move. Swanson said that on a call roughly a week and a half before the directive was issued, he told Bullock’s office he worried that a mask order would further politicize the issue and that simply urging people to wear one and educating them about the need to do so would be more effective.
“As I told Gov. Bullock last week, a mask order may further divide our state along unnecessary political and ideological lines, and may undermine our success against Coronavirus,” Swanson said in a written statement.
In an emailed response on Friday, Bullock spokeswoman Erin Loranger issued the following statement.
“Gov. Bullock heard these concerns directly from law enforcement and that’s exactly why the enforcement section of the directive focuses on education. We are confident most Montanans will follow this directive and that enforcement will be reserved for only the most serious cases where the public is at risk. Many Montanans have already made mask wearing a habit, and as cases have quickly increased over the last weeks, it’s critical that all Montanans mask up to keep one another safe and support businesses as they work to stay open. We appreciate the Sheriffs stepping up to educate folks and keep their constituents safe.”