The Whitefish City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday requiring individuals to use masks or face coverings inside businesses and in public when social distancing is not possible.
Public comment before the council vote was heated. Those who opposed the ordinance did not wear masks and decried the measure, saying mask wearing should be up to individuals rather than a public health rule.
Those who testified in support of the measure said many supporters did not show up because they were concerned about social distancing during the meeting inside council chambers.
While a majority of in-person testimony opposed the public mask requirement, Mayor John Muhlfeld pointed out that of the 356 written comments received, nearly 70 percent were in favor of the ordinance.
"We’re doing this for the businesses and for the friends of mine that work in the downtown, that sling beers, that wait tables, that bus dishes, that are in a very risky environment. And they came to us asking for this city government to help to protect them."
The ordinance requires businesses to provide masks to workers, enforce mask wearing of patrons and to post signage for non-residents. Business owners that fail to comply could have their business license pulled.
Individuals could face up to a $300 fine from the city for the first offense and up to $500 for a second offense. Whitefish’s ordinance follows Missoula’s decision last week to implement a mask requirement.
Unlike the Missoula order, the Whitefish rule requires masks outside when people gather for organized events of 20 or more people.
Gallatin County is also considering a face covering requirement later this week.