County Commissioners push back mandatory face mask decision

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SWEETWATER COUNTY, WYOMING (July 7, 2020) — The Sweetwater County Board of Commissioners decided to push back the decision to require mandatory face masks in County buildings today during a regularly scheduled session.

The resolution would require all those who enter any county facility to wear a face mask, regardless of the ability to maintain social distancing. This resolution comes after “significant concern” was expressed to members of the board from stakeholders, who fear the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Gary McLean, Sweetwater County Human Resources Director, the percentage of those wearing facemasks in County facilities has dropped drastically in recent weeks.

According to McLean, when County buildings first reopened, mask usage was at 50-70%. Currently, mask usage has dropped to 20-27%. In addition, Wyoming’s reopening and a surge of increased out of state visits have caused concern in protecting the public, employees, and partners of the County.

The decision comes after nearly all members of the Board weighed in their position of requiring mandatory face coverings.

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Commissioner Jeffrey Smith opened the discussion, expressing concerns with how the requirement would be enforced. Enforcement responsibilities would be taken care of internally by department managers, elected officials, and door attendants.

Smith expressed concern with the responsibility of door attendants to enforce face mask requirements.

“I would say that puts an awful lot of pressure on a door attendant,” Smith said. “We have seen some incidents where face masks are required, even just recommended, and there is altercations and incidents that have blown up.”

“I’m not sure that mandating it is the way to go,” Smith noted.

Commissioner Wally Johnson agreed with Smith, claiming that “We have to remember who these buildings belong to.”

“They [the buildings] belong to the public,” Johnson began. “We have to remember who we work for, we work for the taxpayers. They have freedoms that we cannot dictate through the government to make them wear facemasks.”

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“There is an opinion out there about the effectiveness of wearing face masks, and, again, I would even give our employees the option of whether they would like to wear them or not.”

County Attorney Daniel Erramouspe weighed in on some of the changes that he feels should be made to the resolution.

These changes include:

  • Changing language in the resolution from “mandatory” to “discretionary”.
  • Adding additional enforcement options.
  • Offering more exceptions to those who do not want or cannot wear masks, as well as providing assistance to accomplish what they need without having to wear a mask.
  • Providing other alternatives to mask use that eliminates the need for enforcement

A decision on mandatory face masks in County buildings will now be made at a later date, after necessary changes to the resolution are made.

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