The Laramie City Council on Tuesday declined to throw its support behind an order through Albany County and the state to require face masks in public places.
The council chose not to pass a resolution supporting such a mandate during a special meeting that followed a joint work session with the Albany County Commission on infrastructure projects. It’s not clear whether or when county or state officials would implement such an order or how it will be enforced, but Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said those discussions have been taking place.
Authority for granting a variance to statewide health orders to county governments that would allow for a local face mask order ultimately lies with state health officer Alexia Harrist, who works with the Attorney General’s office when the state receives a request from a county health officer. Albany County health officer Jean Allais will make the determination whether to request Harrist grant a variance to statewide health orders that would allow for the implementation of a local facemask requirement. The council’s resolution simply would have requested Allais work with the state to implement the order.
The council voted 5-4, with Vice Mayor Pat Gabriel, Councilman Charles McKinney, Mayor Joe Shumway, Councilman Bryan Shuster and Councilwoman Jessica Stalder voting against the resolution.
Dozens gathered outside of City Hall before Tuesday’s meeting, waving American flags while showing their opposition to a facemask mandate.
Albany County resident and former gubernatorial candidate Taylor Haynes was among those at City Hall who gathered before the meeting. He said such an order would be unconstitutional.
“We are here to let elected officials know we intend to be free, we are responsible and we are Americans,” Haynes said. “We want to exercise our First Amendment right to freely gather, we thank them for their service, and we ask them to defend and uphold the Constitution, that’s their job. Their job is not to protect me from the virus.”
Several public comments were made by people who echoed Haynes’s sentiments, and questioned whether council members should be passing a resolution supporting a mandate when details on enforcement and exceptions were not yet clear.
Others in the public spoke in favor of a facemask requirement, saying it was the duty of the council to show its support for the measure to protect public health.
Riley Talamantes, president of the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming, said the return of college students in coming weeks should be reason enough to implement a requirement. UW already has a facemask requirement in place for all on university property.
“If the message is not consistent in all parts of Laramie, I think this will be an issue,” Talamantes said.