GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — Two county sheriff's offices in Wyoming have said they will not enforce a statewide mask mandate aimed at preventing transmission of the coronavirus.
The Fremont County sheriff joined the Sweetwater County sheriff on Thursday in declaring that enforcement of the new measure is up to individuals and not law enforcement.
That same day, about 40 unmasked protesters gathered at the Campbell County Courthouse in the northeastern part of the state to demonstrate against the mask mandate.
“Our Governor is sending a strong message about the current state of affairs in Wyoming,” Fremont County Sheriff Ryan Lee said. “I understand his directive, however my office will not be issuing criminal citations.”
On Tuesday, Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle and County Attorney Dan Erramouspe said the measures were "unenforceable under the law.”
Hundreds of other counties across the U.S. have enforced similar measures since the pandemic began.
The new Wyoming orders were enacted in response to a substantial spike in statewide coronavirus cases. The state reported 128 deaths from the coronavirus in November, the most ever recorded in a single month.
The new measures imposed the mask mandate in most public settings and limited indoor gatherings to 10 people when social distancing is not possible.
Up to 250 people are allowed to gather outdoors as long as attendance does not exceed 50% of the capacity of venues. Republican Gov. Mark Gordon's orders went into effect on Wednesday and are currently scheduled to expire on Jan. 8.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.