The Montana Nurses Association released a statement on Wednesday lambasting the governor’s recent emergency rule regarding school masks as a violation of state law and the promotion of “junk science.”
The association, which represents nurses in labor contracts and advocates for them in the state legislature, posted the statement on its website on Wednesday.
The governor’s office did not respond Wednesday to an email seeking comment on the nurses association’s characterization of the state of emergency as a violation of state law.
The statement condemns an emergency rule issued by Gov. Greg Gianforte and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services last week. The rule was intended to “promote parental rights regarding masks in schools,” but did not direct schools to consider parents when determining their local mask policies and instead said school districts “should” accommodate parent concerns about mask requirements. The rule was quickly denounced by the medical community, and school districts reported that they were already providing opportunities for public input before implementing their mask mandates.
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Billings and Missoula are among the schools that have implemented mask mandates for students. The mandates have sparked protests from parent groups, while three Missoula County public school districts have been sued by parents claiming that mandatory mask use violates their children’s right to privacy. , dignity and freedom of expression “without the necessary demonstration of a compelling government interest to do so.”
The nurses’ association said Wednesday, after its own legal review, that the emergency rule does not meet state law requirements that allow the governor to exercise the power to override the regular regulatory process. and public participation needs. Because the rule contained no mandatory requirement, it did not resolve a problem that “cannot be avoided or resolved by any other administrative action,” the association writes.
“The DPHHS could just as well have issued a press release containing the same suggestions, without abusing the rule-making process,” the statement said.
The statement also blasted all of the examples cited by the governor’s office to support Gianforte’s claim that the imposition of masks on students was based on “inconclusive research.” Adam Meier, director of Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services, said in the same press release that “a number” of studies indicate that universal mask use in children may harm health. health and development, especially in children with learning or developmental disabilities. .
One study provided by the governor’s office was not peer-reviewed, the association pointed out, while the second study clearly supported masking, which the association said added to the confusion. Another example provided was not a scientific journal but an article in New York Magazine by an author of several articles contradicting “scientific consensus”, and a fourth concerned the spread of influenza, not COVID-19, says the association’s press release.
Montana’s Republican governor has threaded the political needle in recent weeks as COVID-19 festers again across the state. Gianforte said at a press conference last month that he would not issue a mask mandate or vaccine mandate while urging Montanans to get vaccinated, a recommendation that some social media commentators say , would cost their political support. He told the press conference he was “unfortunate” the conversation about whether to get vaccinated had been politicized.
The daily number of new COVID-19 cases reported by the state has maintained its rise since late July, driven by the highly contagious delta variant. The state’s COVID-19 tracker tallied 6,680 active cases Wednesday and 1,828 deaths since the pandemic began. The state’s vaccination rate is 51%.