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Washakie county

Washakie County Mask Order Rescinded; Capacity Limit Mandates Also Dropped

in News/Coronavirus
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Washakie County has received multiple variances from public health orders and its residents are now no longer required to wear masks in all public places, although it is still encouraged.

The county was granted four variances by state Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, responding to a request made by Washakie County Public Health Officer Dr. Amber Moss because of the dropping number of coronavirus cases over recent weeks.

As of Wednesday, Washakie County reported only five active COVID cases.

In addition to the lifting of the mask requirement, the variances allow restaurants, bars, gyms and other places where people might gather to operate without restrictions and allow more people to gather for inside and outdoor events than are allowed to gather under current statewide rules.

Other reasons for Harrist approving the variances included the fact that Washakie Medical Center had an adequate supply of coronavirus tests, there were no coronavirus cases in any of the local nursing or assisted living facilities and that there was also an adequate supply of personal protective equipment in case of a spike.

However, mask use will still be required in county schools and day care centers.

Gov. Mark Gordon implemented a statewide mask mandate in December and it is in place until at least the end of the month.

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Washakie County Sheriff: “We Are Not Going To Be The Mask Police”

in News/Coronavirus
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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.

Rakness told county residents that he hoped all of them would practice common sense when it came to wearing masks in public places to slow the spread of coronavirus.

However, he added law enforcement officers would not issue citations to those not wearing a mask in keeping with the county’s mask mandate.

“We here at the Washakie County Sheriff’s Office and the Worland Police Department are not going to be the mask police, nor are we going to track people down for not wearing a mask,” he said.

Rakness urged residents to act on their own to comply with the order in order to stop the spread of the virus. The sheriff added that either the sheriff’s department or the Worland Police Department may speak with business owners if they find out owners aren’t following the order.

“Be respectful and abide by what local business[es] or facilities have in place regarding the…mandate to wear a mask,” he said. “We will enforce incidents involving breach of peace, disorderly conduct and interference with a peace officer.”

He added that the city, county and state couldn’t handle another shutdown such as the one imposed in the spring to slow the spread of the illness.

“What we don’t want is another economic shutdown. I don’t think we can weather another shutdown again,” Rakness said. “I’m doing my best here to keep the Law Enforcement Center opened up and running, making sure County residents can utilize our services for background checks, finger-prints, concealed firearms permits and jail inmate visitation. So please, help us help you. I know no one likes this, I don’t either, but we need to stop the spread of this virus.”

The Lincoln County sheriff and attorney also recently spoke out, saying they wouldn’t enforce the mandate, but still urged people to use caution and common sense.

Rakness’ comments came after Washakie County commissioners said they were left out of the decision by Dr. Ed Zimmerman, the county’s health officer, to ask the state to approve a mask mandate for the county.

On Monday, commissioners terminated Zimmerman’s contract to serve as county health officer. Zimmerman said he was removed because of the mask order, however, Fred Frandson, commission chairman, said the decision had nothing to do with the mask order.

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Restaurants, Churches To Open In Sheridan, Washakie Counties

in News/Coronavirus
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Restaurants and bars in Sheridan and Washakie counties are now able to open under variances to the state’s health orders approved by Wyoming officials.

The counties both asked for county-wide exemptions to the public health orders closing restaurants and bars that were put in place in mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

While the statewide orders keeping restaurants, bars and other businesses expected to attract 10 people or more are in place until at least May 15, Gov. Mark Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, said county officials would be allowed to ask for variances to those rules.

The variances approved for Sheridan County would allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining. However, tables would be limited to six people, all tables would have to be at least six feet away from each other and servers would have to wear face masks.

Sheridan County also won approval for its request for a variance to allow churches to resume their services. While churches were not closed by any of Gordon’s orders, a limit on gatherings of 10 people or more effectively prevented services from being held in churches.

Under the rules for operating churches, household groups attending services must remain at least six feet away from other household groups. Church officials and staff who have close contact with members must wear a cloth face mask.

In Washakie County, state officials granted a request to allow the reopening of restaurants and bars for inside seating if specific safety guidelines are imposed. The guidelines are similar to those in place for Sheridan County, requiring tables to be six feet away from each other, servers to use face masks and requiring disinfecting of the businesses three times a day.

In the cases of both the restaurants and the churches, staff members must be screened regularly to determine whether they have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in contact with anyone with a confirmed case of the illness.

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