Public health and law enforcement officials are fed up with some people and businesses that have been disregarding mask orders, and they say they’re ready to start ticketing those who can’t follow the rules.
“Up to this point, law enforcement has addressed the violations on a case-by-case basis,” Jackson Chief of Police Michelle Weber said at a recent COVID-19 community update meeting. “And we’ve used the opportunity to educate businesses, and in some circumstances customers, on the public health order.
“Because we are not getting the compliance with some businesses in particular … we are now considering issuing citations to those establishments who continue to refuse to comply with those public health orders that are in place.”
Weber said her department has been fielding complaints about two specific businesses and is communicating with managers there about the seriousness of mask compliance.
But Weber said she’s about done with verbal warnings after seeing a video of a bar packed full of maskless people watching football last week.
Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond said she received the video in a formal complaint from a concerned community member and believed a call to the police department was necessary.
“It was a lot of people shoulder to shoulder,” Pond said. “It was very clear that the public health orders were not being followed.”
Pond said it’s frustrating to see people gathering like that, because the only way to keep valley businesses open is for people to be responsible and mindful when they’re out in public.
“Everybody has a part to play and they need to take personal responsibility,” Pond said.
She said what she saw in the video was a recipe for a super-spreader event.
“It doesn’t help us ... to keep the virus in check,” she said.
Since Jan. 1, police have received 34 mask-related calls for service. Most of the time officers respond and are able to get the offender to put on a mask without any issues.
In Teton County, deputies are dealing with similar calls.
“It seems like enforcement action would be appropriate if things don’t change,” Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr said.
Deputies are called regularly to the ski areas to help with mask enforcement.
“They have stepped up to the plate and are utilizing their employees to monitor what their guests are doing,” Carr said. “We get called when compliance isn’t met or there’s an argument over it.”
Carr said so far those calls have resulted in trespass notices: “They’re kicking people off the mountain.”
Teton County remains in a critical level for surging COVID-19 cases, and orders require masks be worn in most public places. The most recent order has been extended through mid-February.