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Gianforte encourages vaccines, won’t mandate shots or masks

August 24, 2021 GMT

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte continues to negotiate a political tight rope related to COVID-19, encouraging people to get vaccinated while promising he will not mandate vaccines or face coverings.

“It’s unfortunate that all of this has been politicized,” Gianforte, a Republican, said Tuesday during a news conference that addressed several issues, including the state’s COVID-19 response.

The delta variant, which is dominant strain circulating in the country, is more contagious than other variants and research shows unvaccinated people are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated, state officials said.

COVID-19 cases have been increasing in Montana since mid-July and 720 new cases were reported Tuesday. Twenty-five deaths have been reported in the past week, the number of active cases statewide is nearing 4,000 and 239 people were hospitalized, according to state officials.

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“There couldn’t be a more important time to get vaccinated,” Gianforte said. “The vaccines have been researched, they’ve been rigorously tested, they’re safe and they work.”

He said getting vaccinated will also help the state’s economy continue to improve.

“Since I was sworn in, I’ve encouraged Montanans to get vaccinated,” Gianforte said. “Just last weekend, former President (Donald) Trump told Americans, ‘Get vaccinated.’”

President Joe Biden, government officials in Washington and journalists have also encouraged Americans to get the vaccine, Gianforte said. The vaccine was developed under the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed,” he noted.

“When it comes down to it though, people who are hesitant to get the vaccine don’t want a lecture. They don’t respond to sanctimony and virtue signaling. They want to be talked to with respect,” Gianforte said. “They trust their personal medical provider to talk to them about the vaccine, answer their questions, clear up any uncertainty and provide them with medical guidance.”

“They don’t want to hear from me, national figures, interest groups or even the press,” Gianforte said. “It’s not effective.”

Some residents aren’t just hesitant, though — they’re adamantly opposed to getting vaccinated.

Gianforte posted on social media on Monday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had fully approved the Pfizer vaccine and encouraged people to talk to their health care provider about getting vaccinated. He mentioned the FDA approval during his news conference, which was carried live on his Facebook page.

Both statements drew sharp criticism, and comments with incorrect information, from those opposed to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Some said Gianforte would lose their political support.