face mask coronavirus

SHERIDAN — A health order requiring masks to be worn outside of a person's home was approved by Dr. Alexia Harrist Tuesday, Kim Deti confirmed Tuesday at 5 p.m. 

Deti serves as the public information officer for the Wyoming Department of Health.  

Harrist approved orders in seven other counties Tuesday, too.  

The order requires all persons within Sheridan County wear a face covering in certain public settings — such as:

• when inside or in line to enter any retail or commercial business or government facility open to the public.

• when obtaining services at or visiting health care facilities, including but not limited to hospitals, clinics, walk-in health facilities, dentists, pharmacies, blood banks, other health care facilities, behavioral health providers, facilities providing veterinary and similar health care services for animals.

• when waiting for or riding public transportation or paratransit, or while they are riding in a taxi, private car service, shuttle, tour or ride-sharing vehicle. The driver shall also wear a face covering when passengers are in the vehicle.

In addition, the order requires businesses and government facilities open to the general public to post notices stating that face coverings are required and that all employees, owners and volunteers of such places will wear masks when interacting with the public or when working in an area visited by the public — such as reception areas, grocery store aisles and other areas.

Minors will not be required to wear face coverings, though those over the age of 3 will be encouraged to wear one. Additional exemptions are also listed.

As far as enforcement in Sheridan County, Sheridan County Prosecuting Attorney Dianna Bennett said, like all cases, her office will respond on a case-by-case basis. 

"I know that other prosecutors have made blanket statements about this issue, but I think I have a duty to analyze each specific situation," Bennett said in an email to The Sheridan Press Tuesday morning. "I am hoping that it is not necessary, as the idea of the order is to encourage compliance as to wearing masks and to comply with the other orders issued by Dr. Harrist.

"I am aware that many people believe that there is no authority to issue these orders, however the Legislature has in fact provided this authority in Wyoming statutes," she continued. "Also, there are multiple exceptions in the Sheridan County Order, which very much complicates our ability to enforce it."

Bennett consulted with law enforcement before responding to The Press' question about enforcement posed Monday evening after the proposed — and now effective — order was posted on Sheridan County's website. 

"If we receive a citation from law enforcement, we will review the case to determine if there has been a provable and prosecutable violation," Bennett said. "Again, we are hoping that enforcement actions won’t be necessary." 

During a city council meeting Nov. 16, Sheridan Police Department Lt. Tom Ringley said the police department would fully enforce the order signed by Harrist, with an emphasis on “compliance and cooperation.”

“Our goal is not to cite people or arrest our way out of this problem,” Ringley said. “Our goal is to work with the public so that we can get compliance and cooperation and fix this problem together.”

Ringley said violation of the order would not be an arrestable offense but would merit a court summons.

“We’re not seeking arrest warrants — we’re seeking court summonses, which is akin to a citation,” Ringley said.

Ringley said under the new order, the person or business who is noncompliant will be the one held liable. Businesses will not be held liable for customers.

“If a business owner has a person walk in who doesn’t feel the need to comply with the order, all they need to do is either ask them to leave or call us, and we’ll be more than happy to ask them to leave,” Ringley said. “If they don’t leave, that becomes a trespass issue.”

Bennett clarified Wednesday afternoon no business is liable for customer actions at all in any case and is not contingent upon them encouraging customers to wear masks. Employers are responsible for employees but not customers, she said.

Ringley reiterated Wednesday morning law enforcement will do everything in its power to avoid creating more work for the already-strapped county attorney's office. A misdemeanor fine does not exceed $750, but Ringley said his team plans to use communication to resolve any reports of noncompliance before official enforcement action is taken. 

Recommended for you