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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Montana Nurses Association: Gianforte Administration Is Pushing ‘Junk Science.’

Closeup of a mask on a person's face.

The Montana Nurses Association is accusing Gov. Greg Gianforte’s administration of pushing “junk science” through a recent emergency administrative rule about masking in schools.

The rule issued by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services last week said that school districts should consider parent input when implementing masking rules, but didn’t change districts’ ability to mandate that students and staff wear masks.

CEO of the Montana Nurses Association Vicky Byrd says the association reviewed the supporting documents the governor’s office released along with the rule. She says the administration misrepresents what the larger body of scientific literature says about how masks can reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“When you have politicized and emotionalized this very real pandemic, it harms our patients and we couldn’t just let that go.”

Gov. Gianforte’s office and the state health department pointed to information they say shows masks can harm kids. They say there is no conclusive science showing masks reduce the spread of COVID.

Public health experts, including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say mask wearing reduces new infections.

In response to Montana Nurse Association’s criticism, Brooke Stroyke, a spokesperson with Gianforte’s office, said, “The governor’s office engages directly with constructive stakeholders who are honest brokers, not through press releases or media gimmicks.”

The nurses association says that in laying the foundation for its emergency rule Gianforte’s office and the state health department relied on studies that weren’t peer-reviewed, one that was about influenza, and one supporting masking that was taken out of context.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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