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Summit County: Education is the focus, but mask mandate can result in penalties in 'very severe and extreme' situations

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Violations of the county's mask mandate are punishable as infractions similar to traffic tickets.

Summit County says its main focus is to educate people about its new mask mandate, but that in “very severe and extreme” situations of noncompliance, the Sheriff’s Office could issue citations.

One minute after midnight Friday, Summit County’s new mask mandate took effect. In issuing the order, the county said it was trying to protect public health and not looking to hold people criminally liable.

Still, Summit County spokesperson Derek Siddoway said violating the order could be punishable as an infraction, a penalty similar to a traffic ticket.

“There is language in the order that would allow us to issue an infraction in very severe and extreme situations,” Siddoway said.

Summit County Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright said Monday the Sheriff’s Office had not issued any mask-related citations and he was not aware that deputies had responded to any mask-related calls.

Siddoway suggested that aligned with the intention behind the order.

“The focus of the order is on education. However, if there's an individual who is deliberately hostile or in a situation like that, we're going to do all we can to ensure that people understand the order and have the opportunity to follow the order, but there is language that would allow for an infraction which would potentially be a fine,” he said.

Summit County has a “community concerns'' hotline that Siddoway said residents can use to report businesses, schools or other locations that are not complying with the mandate. The hotline can be reached at 435-333-0050.

Siddoway said 70% of those who contacted the department offered a positive response to the mandate, while 30% were opposed to it. As of Monday, Siddoway said the county had received few complaints.

“If you're going into a grocery store or a business and none of the employees are wearing a mask, none of the customers are wearing a mask, that would be a situation where we would want you to contact us so that we could follow up on that,” Siddoway said.

One area where masks are not required is in line for a ski lift, though masks are required while riding inside an enclosed gondola. Siddoway said the county reviewed the health measures put in place by the local ski resorts and determined they were adequate.

Siddoway asked people, including frontline workers who are often tasked with enforcing the mask mandate, to call the Health Department if a mask dispute turns hostile. He said violations would be investigated if reported.

“The way it's structured is similar to if we had a complaint from a restaurant,” Siddoway said. “So we're not going around looking for people that aren't in compliance. We're not on patrol looking for people or businesses who aren't in compliance. But if we hear of any complaints, we will follow up on those complaints and ensure that that location, wherever it may be, understands the order, understands what all the order entails and also has the materials that they need regarding masks to offer those to employees and to the public.”

More information about the order can be found at summitcounty.org.