On county orders, sheriff endorses education over enforcement


By Blake Spurney

NEWTON—Sheriff Chad Gay dispelled the notion posted on social media that he was against wearing masks.

Gay also said he hadn’t changed his mind about enforcing the county’s mask mandate. Rather, he said he preferred reminders and education. He said he hadn’t talked to the police chiefs lately about the issue, but he would bet they’re of the same opinion.

“I just can’t imagine people wanting to use the police to go out and enforcing something like that,” he said. “I just don’t see it as a good use of our time.”

Gay said he had received a couple of calls from the health department about people in quarantine being out and about. He called the folks and reminded them about the importance of staying in quarantine.

Gay said he had an issue with government forcing people to wear masks. He also noted that people needed to do what the could to keep safe. He said business owners certainly had the right to tell someone to leave if he or she wasn’t wearing a mask. If a customer refuses to leave, it becomes a trespassing issue.

“We will be there as quickly as we can to help you with that situation,” he said.

Newton Mayor Leroy Koehn said city commissioners hadn’t talked about mask enforcement in several weeks, but he expected the topic to resurface again. COVID-19 cases have spiked in recent weeks.

“We don’t have it on our agenda yet, but I’m guessing we’ll be talking about it really soon,” he said.

Koehn said there was no doubt that all commissioners strongly recommended for people to wear masks in public. He also said police believed they would be overwhelmed if officers began enforcing the mask mandate.

“This body feels like that it’s a step too far to ask law enforcement to start giving tickets because it’s way too subjective about who they’re going to ticket and who they’re not,” he said.

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