CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Authorities in Wyoming have raised questions over how they would enforce a potential mask mandate in Laramie County after county health officials sought a draft of the order.
The Cheyenne-Laramie County Board of Health is scheduled to review the order Tuesday, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported. The proposal would then need to be approved by county and state public health officers before it takes effect.
So far, Teton County is the only county with a mask mandate, which has been in effect since July. There is no statewide requirement.
Teton County sheriff’s office Lt. Lloyd Funk said enforcing the mandate has been easy since violators could face possible misdemeanor charges. The department has not issued any citations due to repeated violations.
“Our public health officials here in Teton County have been doing an outstanding job vetting those complaints initially,” Funk said. “They’re handling them, then three strikes and you’re out. That’s when we get the call to go talk to a business or person.”
Laramie County Undersheriff Rich Hillegas said his department would take a similar approach if the mask mandate is approved.
“I don’t want to say our deputies are going to be reluctant to do anything – that’s not going to be the case,” Hillegas said. “We’ll certainly intervene where they need to, but how far do you take it? That’s a hard call to make.”
The department initially had one officer assigned to help the county health department address businesses that ignored health measures, but if the countywide mask mandate is approved the department expects to include more officers.
“It may be a matter of briefing all of our officers that, ‘Hey, if you get a complaint, here’s how we want you to handle it,’” Hillegas said.
Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak said his department would also take a similar approach where officers wouldn’t be “looking for people who aren’t wearing masks,” but instead assisting the health department as needed.
“I’m sure the order would be more toward the business side of things – people in enclosed spaces, things like that – and we would leave it up to the business owner to enforce those rules,” he said.
Hillegas said he was wary to predict how much criticism could emerge with a mandate, but was hopeful residents would adapt if one is issued.
“Is it overreach? I don’t know,” he said. “That depends on your point of view as a citizen … but it is what it is. We have to live with it, and it would just be better if people did their best to comply.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.