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Bonner County Sheriff 'will not be enforcing' North Idaho's mask mandate

In a Facebook post, the Bonner County Sheriff's Office said it would not respond to calls about mask mandate violations.
Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler

BONNER COUNTY, Idaho — The Bonner County Sheriff's Office will not be enforcing the mask mandate passed by the Panhandle Health District, according to a Facebook post from Sheriff Daryl Wheeler. 

The Panhandle Health Board passed the mask mandate on Thursday, Nov. 19. Masks are now required across the five counties in North Idaho for the next two months.

The moves came as COVID-19 cases surge throughout Idaho. Panhandle Health District reported 246 new COVID-19 cases and four new deaths in Idaho's five northern counties on Monday, Nov. 23. 

Gov. Brad Little announced that he would roll the entire state back into a modified Phase 2 of its reopening plan as coronavirus cases threatened to overwhelm the healthcare system.

The Bonner County Sheriff's office said it will not respond to calls about mask mandate violations from citizens. 

Citizens who call about violations will be told by dispatchers that the Sheriff's office will not be "investigating or enforcing the mask mandate," the post reads. If callers insist on speaking with a deputy, a deputy will call them back and "state the same thing," Wheeler wrote. 

Sheriff Wheeler said the three police departments within Bonner County, Ponderay, Priest River and Sandpoint, will have to make their own decisions about "if and how they will enforce the mask mandate," the post reads. Bonner County Dispatch will forward mask violation calls to those police departments who will handle it from there, Wheeler wrote. 

"Governor Little, instead of calling up the Idaho Legislature, empowered the unelected Panhandle Health District with a legislative function," Wheeler wrote. "Please read what the Panhandle Health District wrote, and decide for yourself how it could possibly be enforced." 

Wheeler said the Bonner County Sheriff's Office is working "at maximum capacity on real crime and it cannot enforce the unenforceable mask rules." 

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