Sheriff: Washoe deputies to educate public, not criminally enforce, Sisolak’s mask mandate

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Penney Leezy and the Soroptimist Seamstresses sew mask for local medical professionals. Reno Gazette Journal

Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam announced his deputies will continue to educate the public on the importance of wearing a mask rather than criminally enforce Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mandate. 

“It would be inappropriate for deputies to criminally enforce (Gov. Sisolak’s) mask mandate or social distancing,” Balaam said in a statement on Thursday. 

“Due to the minor nature of the offenses, the potential for negative encounters, and various ways the order could be violated our deputies will instead continue in an educational capacity in partnership with the Washoe County Board of Health,” he said.

Balaam said he recommends residents to “exercise common sense” and to be aware of the governor’s directive and the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Sisolak issued a directive mandating residents and tourists to wear masks in public until further notice following a sudden spike in coronavirus cases. It goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, June 25. 

His mandate followed through a longstanding pledge to reintroduce strict protocols if the state suffers a setback in its fight against the virus.  

Related: ‘No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service’: Will masks stunt visitation in Las Vegas?

More: What Nevada Governor Sisolak’s mask mandate means for you

Rules of the mandatory mask order

The new directive closely mirrors California’s mask order, in which all citizens must cover their mouths and nose in most indoor and outdoor settings when social distancing isn’t possible.

Here are the rules as follows:

  • Nevadans and visitors don’t need to wear medical-grade N95 masks.
  • Fabric coverings like a bandana or cloth covering is accepted. 
  • Businesses that fail to meet requirements will face violations from licensing agencies and regulatory authorities.
  • Businesses have the right to ask a customer to leave if they are not following this directive.
  • Nevadans and visitors without masks won’t be fined, but the governor did not rule out the possibility of monetary penalties.

The mask mandate does not apply to: 

  • Children between the ages of 2 and 9.
  • People experiencing homelessness, though they are encouraged to take protective measures to the greatest extent possible 
  • People who can’t wear a face covering for medical reasons or because of a disability. 
  • Employees who could be put at risk for wearing a mask — Sisolak noted police have expressed concerns about it. The policy is up to each jurisdiction on how those employees comply. 
  • No mask is needed while eating or drinking at a restaurant so long as social distance is achieved. 
  • People engaging in outdoor recreation like swimming, walking, hiking, biking or running as long as they can remain socially distant from others. 
  • People who are incarcerated. 

Marcella Corona is a breaking news reporter who covers crime and justice in Northern Nevada. Support her work by subscribing to RGJ.com.

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