Carbon County commissioners were apparently blindsided when their county health officer informed them he submitted a request for a mandatory mask order.
Dr. Marvin Couch, the county’s public health officer, requested a variance from the state that would require all adults to wear face coverings in certain public places. Children aren’t required to wear masks, although it is encouraged for those three and older.
According to Bigfoot99, the Carbon County radio station, commissioners felt “blindsided” by Couch when he told them about the order for the first time Tuesday, announcing he was seeking a mandate which would take effect immediately.
“This order is necessary to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in our county, and hopefully save lives,'” Couch told the board.
He apparently submitted the request for the mandate last week.
State Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist approved the order Tuesday just hours after commissioners learned of its existence.
Commissioner Sue Jones said during the meeting that the board was powerless to rescind the order, adding that it was up to Couch to do so.
Couch said he requested the order, partly, because of the upcoming holiday season, but added that the mandate could be renewed or rescinded, depending on how many people are testing positive and what the ICU and hospital bed capacities are.
Commissioner John Espy asked why the county governing officials didn’t receive the order prior to it being submitted. He wanted to allow for more time for county residents to prepare for the order.
Couch didn’t agree.
“Changing the order as is approved is not going to be an option,” he told the board.
The order will remain in effect until at least Dec. 4. The goal, according to Bigfoot 99, isn’t to issue citations to residents who don’t follow the order, but use it as an educational opportunity.
This mandate comes on the heels of other mask orders going in effect around the state, including in Laramie, Teton and Sublette counties.
Natrona County health officer Mark Dowell posted a plea for more mask orders to be enacted across the state over the weekend, as he continued to see more and more coronavirus patients filling up facilities in Casper.
All of the state’s county health officers recently signed a letter to Gov. Mark Gordon, asking him to implement a mask order statewide, something he has been hesitant to do.
Gordon did say during a news conference on Friday that stricter health orders would be coming, but didn’t give an indication as to when or what those would look like.
It does not appear that Carbon County is the only county where commissioners might have a difference of opinion with the county health officer.
Commissioners in at least three counties, Weston, Uinta and Goshen, have all adopted resolutions stating their intent to not adopt county-wide health orders, expressing faith in the ability of county residents to make their own health decisions.
However, public health officers from all three counties signed a letter submitted to Gov. Mark Gordon encouraging him to adopt a statewide mask mandate.
Goshen County is also among the counties this week to implement a county health order requiring the use of face masks in public places, despite the resolution approved in August when commissioners said they would “refrain from any county-level virus-related mandates concerning individual health care decisions.”