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mask order

Teton County Implements New Mask Order, In Effect Until At Least Sept. 4

in News/Coronavirus
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

After reviewing all public comments submitted this week and in consulting with state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, Teton County’s health officer has implemented a new countywide facemask mandate that will be in effect until at least Sept. 4, the county announced Thursday.

Dr. Travis Riddell put the order in place on Thursday afternoon and it will expire after Sept. 4 unless the Teton County Board of Commissioners or the Jackson Town Council, or both, decide to extend it.

The order requires people to wear masks inside any business or government facility open to the public, health care facilities or while riding on public transportation. This mandate will also extend to K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, requiring all students, teachers, staff and visitors to wear masks.

There are exceptions to the order, including if a person has a medical condition that would affect their breathing by wearing a mask.

“Taking into account the public comment submitted and looking at the current high transmission of COVID-19 in Teton County, it is important to issue this health order to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Riddell said. “Wearing a face mask is one of the many preventative public health measures along with staying home when sick and the COVID-19 vaccines to help slow the transmission of COVID-19 in the community and keep our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. We ask the entire community to work together to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect those in our community who are more vulnerable or who are not able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The order doesn’t mandate mask usage in any outdoor situations.

This is the first of Wyoming’s 23 counties to implement a new mask order since the statewide mask mandate expired in mid-March. Teton County kept its mask order in place longer than any other county in the state, letting it expire in early May.

As of Thursday, Teton County had 181 active coronavirus cases.

Gov. Mark Gordon has refused to implement any new health mandates, masks or otherwise. However, he is letting Wyoming cities, counties and school districts decide for themselves on whether or not a mask mandate is appropriate.

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Teton County Extends Mask Order Until Mid-May

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

As much of the state begins to return to some semblance of normalcy in the downturn of the pandemic, one Wyoming county is continuing its mask order for at least another month.

Teton County has extended its requirement for people to wear face coverings while in public places until May 17, two months after the statewide mandate was allowed to expire by Gov. Mark Gordon.

The Teton County order requires people 12 and older to wear a face covering while inside or in line to enter any business, local or municipal government facility, health care facility or while riding on public transportation.

Commercial business employees, as well as government staff, are required to wear a face covering when they are within six feet of customers, clients, volunteers or other employees.

All businesses must post notices in a clearly visible location stating masks are required.

However, people with certain medical conditions are exempt from the mask order.

This news also follows the state’s decision to extend mask orders for schools until the end of the month, although some counties have received variances from this order due to low coronavirus case numbers.

As of Wednesday, Teton County had 31 active coronavirus cases. There were three coronavirus patients hospitalized at St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson.

This is the second time the county has extended its mask order since Gordon lifted the statewide mandate.

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Fremont County Sheriff Is Latest To Say Mask Mandate Unenforceable

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Fremont County’s sheriff is following the example set by many of his colleagues, letting his community know the recently-implemented statewide mask mandate isn’t enforceable, at least by criminal standards.

Sheriff Ryan Lee issued a statement on Thursday, saying that the wearing of a face covering in public spaces is a personal choice and that his department wouldn’t be issuing criminal citations for failure to do so.

“Locally we have been at this for 272 days” Lee said. As a society we are all fully aware of the dangers of this virus, however we are also fully aware of what each and every one of us can do to help minimize the spread and impact of the illness amongst our community and families.”

The sheriff reminded Fremont County residents that all local businesses have the right to refuse service to people who don’t wear masks.

Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle said this week any mask mandate isn’t enforceable because they can’t prove someone does — or does not — have a medical condition preventing them from wearing a mask.

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Wyoming Statute Gives Law Enforcement Authority To Enforce Health Orders

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming statutes give state law enforcement agencies the authority to enforce public health orders such as the statewide mask mandate issued recently by Gov. Mark Gordon and state public health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist.

However, some county sheriffs have already stated they will not be issuing citations for those who refuse to abide by mask orders.

The section of Wyoming law regarding public health, Chapter 35, gives Wyoming’s public health officer and Health Department the authority to “investigate and control the causes of epidemic … affecting public health.”

It also specifically gives the department the authority to “close theaters, schools and other public places and to forbid gatherings of people when necessary to protect the public health.”

A violation of any “lawful rule or regulation” issued by the department is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, a 1-year jail term or both.

In addition to the statewide mask mandate, the state’s latest public health orders restrict the hours of operations for bars and restaurants and limit gatherings to 10 people or fewer.

However, law enforcement officials in several counties have announced they will not issue citations for violations of a mask mandate.

When county-level mask mandates were issued in a number of counties in November, sheriffs in Washakie, Lincoln and Sweetwater counties said they would not be enforcing the orders.

While urging residents to take common-sense precautions that might prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the three said they consider the decision to wear a mask a personal one.

Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle said he does not believe the mask mandate is enforceable because law enforcement officers will not be able to prove whether someone has a medical condition that would exempt them from the requirement.

The Washakie County Sheriff’s Department will not act as “the mask police” and won’t track anyone down for not following the orders, according to Sheriff Steven Rakness.

In light of the Lincoln County Public Health Office receiving the OK to implement a countywide mask mandate, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said its officers not enforce it.

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Harrist Says Wyoming Mask Mandate Imposed Because Other Measures Didn’t Work

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Orders requiring the use of face masks in public settings and restricting gatherings of people to 10 people or fewer were adopted only when it became clear the spread of the coronavirus was not slowing in Wyoming, the state’s public health officer said Monday.

“We are only trying to balance the impact of all of our actions,” Dr. Alexis Harrist said during a media briefing Monday. “It has become clear that the previous steps have not been sufficient.”

Harrist and Gov. Mark Gordon on Monday issued new public health orders Monday requiring the use of face masks in public settings, restricting gatherings of people to 10 or fewer and requiring restaurants and bars to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.

Gordon has resisted issuing a statewide mask order and has instead asked Wyoming residents to follow precautions suggested by the Health Department as a way to prevent the transmission of the virus.

But Harrist noted that since September, the state has seen a rapid increase in both coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations and officials realized additional steps were needed.

“More people are getting sick and dying in Wyoming and it’s happening in every county,” she said. “The steps we are moving forward with this week are measures we can take without closing schools or businesses.”

Wyoming’s hospitals are already feeling the pressure of hospitalizations caused by the illness — 202 as of Monday morning — so action was needed to reduce the number of people forced into the hospital by the illness, she said.

The reductions in hours of operations for bars and restaurants was seen as one way to prevent situations where many people gathered in one enclosed area could be exposed to the illness, Harrist said.

“We have learned from the data that certain indoor settings where masks cannot be worn, you pose a higher risk of transmission,” she said. “So limiting the amount of time people are in those settings limits the risk of transmission.”

She added state officials were working with industry officials to provide assistance for bars and restaurants that might lose business because of the shorter hours, however, she did not know what form that assistance might take.

The new health orders were issued as the number of people hospitalized around the state for coronavirus treatment declined slightly. While Harrist said the declines were good to see, the department wants to see a sustained reduction in hospitalized numbers.

She added news of pending federal approval for a coronavirus vaccine should be seen as a very promising sign, but said until the vaccine is readily available, precautions to prevent the spread of the illness need to be observed.

“I think we should look at this vaccine as a light at the end of this tunnel,” she said.

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Gordon Issues Statewide Mask Order in Wyoming; Restricts Gathering Sizes

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

New statewide health orders requiring people to wear face masks inside buildings open to the public and to limit gatherings to no more than 10 were issued by Gov. Mark Gordon on Monday.

Gordon, citing rapid increases in coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations in Wyoming in recent weeks, issued the orders, which will take effect Wednesday and remain in place until at least Jan. 8, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“Our state and those surrounding us are facing a hospital capacity crisis that now compels us to take additional action. All through the fall, Wyoming has seen a rise in serious cases of COVID to a point where every county is facing critical and dangerous levels of spread of the virus. Too many people have died,” he said in a news release. “Science tells us limiting gatherings of groups and using face coverings are effective in slowing transmission of this virus. With these actions we can avoid taking the more drastic step of closing schools and businesses.”

Gordon has resisted issuing a statewide mandate for the use of face masks, but he said taking such a step now might help shorten the life of the outbreak.

“We are at a critical juncture for our state,” he said. “These next few months are going to be challenging for our businesses, citizens, families, and our healthcare workers. This is a necessary step to ensure a happy and healthy holiday season and a safer and Merry Christmas, and set ourselves in good stead for the new year. The deployment of the vaccine in the coming months will help put this awful virus finally at bay and bring us back to some semblance of normal.”

The mask order requires the use of face masks while in all indoor public spaces and while riding on public transportation such as taxis, private car services and rise-sharing vehicles.

Those who cannot wear a mask because of medical conditions are exempt from the order.

Gordon noted that 16 Wyoming counties have already adopted their own mask mandates.

“We stand behind the local actions that are in place. These new orders are meant to support local leadership and we should all know that in Wyoming these mandates are not about citations, but about caring for others,” he said.

Another order limits the size of gatherings to 10 individuals, reduced from the maximum group size of 25 that had been in place for several months.

Indoor facilities may allow more than 10 people to be at their locations, but may allow no more people than 25% of the facility’s capacity.

Outdoor facilities may also allow more than 10 people on-site, but must limit the number of people to no more than 50% of capacity.

The order limiting gatherings does not apply to religious facilities, funeral homes, residential buildings or grocery stores. Nor does it apply to retail businesses as long as patrons remain at least six feet away from one another. 

Also approved was an order limiting the number of hours restaurants and bars allow on-site service.

Under the order, such businesses must close their doors between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., although they can continue to provide takeout and delivery service during those hours.

Gordon said counties can ask to be exempted from the orders if local conditions are deemed adequate to remove the safeguards.

He also asked Wyoming residents again to abide by the rules to slow the spread of the illness.

“Rest assured that we are doing everything in our power to mitigate the economic damage and social costs to the state,” he said. “But how we emerge on the other side is in large part up to us.”

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