GCSO reiterates Inslee comments; enforcement of face covering order unlikely

by Emry Dinman
Staff Writer | June 24, 2020 3:37 PM

GRANT COUNTY — Reinforcing comments made by the governor Tuesday that the state’s new order for people to wear face coverings would not be vigorously enforced, the Grant County sheriff stated Wednesday that his office is focused on education, not citations.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced that the state Secretary of Health would be issuing an order for all people in the state to wear face coverings while indoors in a public space or outdoors when unable to maintain social distancing.

The order takes effect Friday, and failure to comply would be a misdemeanor, Inslee said, punishable with up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, Inslee noted that he expected the order to serve primarily to educate the public, not to lead to their arrest.

“The Grant County Sheriff’s Office has much larger public safety priorities than writing a ticket for a person not wearing a mask,” said Sheriff Tom Jones in a statement, echoing Inslee’s Tuesday comments regarding enforcement.

“I have full trust in the residents and business owners of our great county that they will continue to use common sense and good judgment to be safe,” Jones said,

His comments Wednesday took a different tack from his comments earlier in the pandemic that criticized the lack of social distancing in areas of the county such as the Moses Lake Sand Dunes, which he had threatened to close in April.

Grant County has recently seen a spike in COVID-19 cases, which has coincided with but does not appear to be fully explained by a sharp increase in overall testing, according to data provided by Grant County Health District. As of Tuesday evening, 125 cases were reported in the previous seven days, bringing the total of cases since early March to 471 in the county.