County commissioners are set to vote on a mask-wearing resolution next week, becoming the latest of three government and quasi-governmental bodies in the county to make their voices heard.
Teton County Board of County Commissioners Chair Natalia D. Macker asked during a Monday meeting whether the board would like to follow the Teton Village Association’s lead.
The TVA is an improvement and service district that oversees municipal functions like stormwater management and snow removal in Teton Village. It called a special meeting Friday and passed a resolution recommending that businesses require masks. The measure supported Teton District Health Officer Travis Riddell’s push for a countywide mask order.
“I didn’t know if this board would like to consider something similar,” Macker said.
The board decided to put the issue on a July 20 agenda. That means they’ll consider it about three weeks after Teton District Health Officer Travis Riddell asked town and county elected officials to support him in his bid to get a countywide mask ordinance approved by the state.
The Jackson Town Council acted two days after receiving the request, unanimously approving a resolution of support for Riddell’s countywide order on June 29.
When the state did not approve the decree before the Fourth of July weekend, the town acted again, passing an enforceable order requiring masks to be worn in businesses and other locations within town limits, with some exemptions.
The Teton Village Association approved its resolution three days after the Jackson Hole News&Guide reported that commissioners had not yet voted on a resolution despite Riddell’s ask and were split 3-2 on whether a countywide mask order was the right move.
Executive Director Melissa Turley told the Jackson Hole Daily the Teton Village Association’s vote in support of Riddell’s order “was not requested.”
“We decided to do that independently,” she said. “We just wanted to express that support, as we realized that our resolution was a strong recommendation, but that the best way to see some enforcement of a face covering order was through that health order.”
State health officials are considering local support when deciding whether to approve ordinances that go beyond rules set by the state. The state has so far recommended wearing masks rather than issuing an order requiring them.
State Health Officer Alexia Harrist’s signature is required to make local health orders law.
“My focus, of course, is public health, and that’s what I need to focus on is making sure that the actions are necessary and appropriate,” Harrist said during a press conference last week. “But certainly support from the community is likely to make it a more successful intervention, whatever the intervention is, so it’s definitely a factor that we consider.”
Keith Gingery, the county’s chief deputy attorney, said during Monday’s meeting that Harrist had the order but “is not signing it at this point.”
Commissioner Greg Epstein asked why.
Gingery cited “constitutional issues.”
“I changed the order to address all four of their concerns, the specific concerns that they gave me,” he said, “and it still has not been signed.”
When Macker first posed the question, she asked whether the board would want to vote on a resolution like the Teton Village Association’s, thinking that it had just recommended wearing masks.
Commissioners Luther Propst, Mark Newcomb and Mark Barron said they would be interested in reviewing a resolution that recommended wearing masks.
“I wouldn’t be opposed to looking at that,” Barron said.
When Gingery clarified that the Teton Village Association’s resolution also supported Travis Riddell’s request for a countywide order, he asked if commissioners wanted that language included in the resolution they would consider.
“I don’t,” Barron said.
He and Epstein told the News&Guide last week that they didn’t support Riddell’s request because they were concerned primarily that a mask order would not be enforceable.
In the same set of interviews, the other three commissioners said they were generally supportive of Riddell’s request.
Newcomb did not weigh in on the issue again Monday.
Propst asked to have language encouraging “Dr. Harrist to pass that order” included in the resolution the county will consider next week.
“I’d like to have that language in case we decide we want to take that up,” he said.
Macker said the language would be “available.”