The simple action that many of us were already taking is now a Montana-wide mandate: People 5 years of age and older in Gallatin County must wear face coverings when inside a public space. Now the pressure is off when you go to the grocery store – or is it?

We are watching the statistics, reading the research, and practicing the mantra: Sanitize, distance, and cover. Face coverings protect both the wearer and others; if we all cover, transmission of COVID-19 will be reduced.

What happens when your neighbor, friend, or that stranger will not cover? First, please do not call 911, which is only for emergencies. We must avoid overwhelming our first responders. Second, remember that there may be a medically valid reason for someone without a face covering.

Below are five tips to guide your response to this uncomfortable situation:

  • Check your emotions. You know the risk. You are frustrated and feeling fear can quickly turn into anger. Do not allow your frustrations to boil over. Confronting and shaming people that will not cover can result in a “backfire effect” that strengthens their resolve.
  • Empathize. Coping with the pandemic can be challenging for some. Denial is sometimes a response to stressful situations. . Those who are having a hard time with stress may not wear face coverings. Ignoring their concerns might make them feel more anxious, and isolated.
  • Ask for your space. Now that we are cool, calm, and collected, ask for distance. People who refuse to wear face coverings also tend to engage in more risky behavior. Let this correlation be the motivating force behind your ask.
  • Speak with your wallet. Is it a restaurant worker refusing to cover? Eat elsewhere. Get your coffee at a different kiosk. Reward companies that actively protect their workers and patrons.
  • Set an example. Cover and greet people, engage in conversation, and above all normalize. Not wearing a face covering is a long-standing habit to break. Take solace in the numbers; you are far from alone. You are doing what is right for yourself, your loved ones, and your community.

This continues to be about our community. Understanding our friends and neighbors helps us connect on an emotional level to someone who may be struggling to deal with this crisis.

Need more resources? The COVID-19 Call Center is available 7 days a week; from 8 AM to 5 PM. call 406-548-0123 or email. Have a complaint about an establishment? Use this form and GCCHD staff will reach out to create a dialogue based on education, resources, and compliance.