‘Cannot enforce the unenforceable’; Bonner Co. Sheriff will not investigate mask mandate violations

SANDPOINT, Idaho — Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler said he will not enforce the mask mandate passed by the Panhandle Health Board last week.

Wheeler said in a Facebook post that whenever they receive a complaint of someone not wearing a mask, the Sheriff’s Office will tell them they they “will not be investigating or enforcing the mask mandate.” Wheeler says it is up to the three police departments of Bonner County—Ponderay, Priest River and Sandpoint Police—to sort out how they will enforce the mandate.

“The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office is working at maximum capacity on real crime, and it cannot enforce the unenforceable mask rules,” said Wheeler. “Governor Little, instead of calling up the Idaho Legislature, empowered the unelected Panhandle Health District with a legislative function. Please read what the Panhandle Health District wrote, and decide for yourself how it could possibly be enforced.”

The Panhandle Health District voted on Thursday to reinstate a mask mandate, which will now apply to people living in all five North Idaho counties served by the district.

RELATED: Panhandle Health Board implements mask mandate for all five N. Idaho counties

This comes as Idaho’s ‘incident rate’ sits at 4,837 cases per 100,000 population—2.7 times that of Washington, which has a much greater statewide population but an incident rate of only 1,769 per 100,000 population.

All five counties served by the PHD – Bonner, Boundary, Benewah, Shoshone and Kootenai – also remain the “red” risk category, meaning testing positivity is greater than 20 percent and hospital capacity is at or above 100 percent.

RELATED: No citations issued yet for Coeur d’Alene mask mandate, Police Chief says education ‘is working’