Sandpoint Police will educate on masks, give opportunity to comply

In response to the Face Covering Order issued by the Panhandle Health District Board of Health on November 20, the City of Sandpoint Police Department will be undertaking a 30-day education and outreach effort. On a case-by-case basis, warnings will be given to individuals who are not in compliance with the order.

The Health District’s order requires that every person in Bonner County wear a face covering that completely covers the person’s nose and mouth when the person is in a public place and physical distancing of six feet from others cannot be maintained.

A “public place” means any place open to all members of the public without specific invitation, including but not necessarily limited to retail business establishments, government offices, medical, educational, arts and recreational institutions and public transportation, as well as outdoor public areas including but not limited to public parks, trails, streets, sidewalks, lines for entry, exit, or service, when a distance of at least six feet cannot be maintained from anyone not an immediate household member.

There are ten specific instances cited wherein face coverings are not required.

“We have been following the lead of other communities around our state and beyond in terms of a best practice law enforcement approach,” said Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon. “Most law enforcement agencies have first taken the education approach and this is consistent with what we do when a new law comes out that citizens may not be fully aware of or adapted to. Think of recent laws around texting while driving, for example.”

The Coeur d’Alene Police Department recently issued several citations to citizens who did not comply with their city’s mask mandate. The prosecutor’s office dropped the charges, however, as no warning and no opportunity to comply with the mask mandate was given to the citizens involved.

“We will be issuing the warnings and providing an opportunity to comply in Sandpoint,” noted Chief Coon.

“As COVID-19 cases increase in Sandpoint, we strongly encourage all of our residents and visitors to stay apprised and follow public health advice and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Panhandle Health,” Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad said. “It is a matter of life or death for some of our most vulnerable community members and others who don’t view themselves as vulnerable but may be impacted by long-term effects.”