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County attorneys throughout Utah agree mask mandate can’t be enforced through criminal law

 

By Rhett Wilkinson

Staff writer

11-18-2020

Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels was on a Zoom call Tuesday with all but one of the county attorneys in Utah discussing the enforcement of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s mask mandate.

“The majority of the county attorneys agree that you cannot enforce the mask mandate through the criminal law,” Daniels said in the Tuesday, Nov. 10 Sanpete County Commission Meeting.

It has the potential to be enforced through the U.S. Department of Labor, Daniels said.

The county and Mt. Pleasant are at least two government entities in Sanpete County that aren’t enforcing the mask mandate.

A Twitter account named State of Utah COVID-19 Response tweeted on Tuesday, Nov. 10 that the Utah Labor Commission “may enforce employee mask-wearing just like any workplace safety standard.” That said, “They are not charged with enforcing mask wearing by customers at a business,” the Response tweeted.

The Response also tweeted on Tuesday, Nov. 10 that “This mandate is enforceable in business settings. Businesses that fail to comply will be subject to fines.”

Daniels also said the mandate could be enforced through “civil channels.”

But “as far as individually going around, issuing citations, it’s probably not going to happen,” Daniels said.

That’s probably because of the Administrative Procedure Act, Daniels said.

While saying “we’re not going to” issue citations, Daniels said he hopes that people will go forward “respecting” Herbert’s order.

Regarding enforcing the mask mandate, the Central Utah Public Health Department “has no appetite for that, either,” Sanpete County Commissioner Scott Bartholomew said.

The same day that Daniels made his comments, the Mt. Pleasant City Council suggested to Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Jim Wilberg to not enforce the mask mandate.

Wilberg had asked the council if it wanted him to do so.

“I think you have bigger fish to fry,” Councilman Rondy Black said.

Mayor Michael Olsen said that would be his recommendation.

Wilberg said “all along, I’ve told our officers … don’t get involved with it too much,” referring to the mask mandate.

Wilberg noted that there are videos of officers at sporting events arresting people for not wearing masks.

But Wilberg has told his officers that if there is a violation of wearing a mask, it is a “civil thing.”

“You could issue a citation, couldn’t [you]?” Councilman Justin Atkinson asked.

“A lot of the sheriffs, a lot of the agencies aren’t going to enforce the large-gatherings laws,” Wilberg replied.

Councilman Sam Draper replied that it would be hard to enforce mask requirements with so many people not wearing them in a large gathering.

“So many are complying,” Wilberg noted two days after the governor put forth the mandate and a day after it took effect. That’s when Wilberg asked the council if it wanted him to enforce the requirement.