The sheriffs of Lafayette and Vermilion parishes, in statements released Tuesday, said their enforcement of the governor's statewide mandate ordering everyone visiting businesses to wear face masks will be limited.
Effective July 13, anyone in a public building, including businesses, are required to cover their nose and mouth to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the new executive order July 11.
Local governments and law enforcement have been struggling to figure out what their role is, if any, in enforcing the mandate. Previously, Edwards ordered employees of businesses to wear face coverings if they come into contact with customers. That order remains in place.
Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mark Garber, in a statement Tuesday, said his office's approach to the new face mask order will be to "inform and educate the public."
"We believe enforcement action would only be appropriate in the most extreme circumstances and such circumstances would also involve the Louisiana State Fire Marshal, as directed by the governor’s order," he wrote.
Deputies will be involved only to keep the peace when a customer refuses to leave a business after being asked to do so because they refuse to wear a face mask, the release states.
The governor's order requires businesses to require customers wear masks. If the customer refuses to wear a mask and refuses to leave the business, law enforcement can be called to remove them and they may be charged with trespassing. If the business repeatedly allows customers inside without masks, the business owner can be cited.
Enforcement, Garber's statement reads, lies with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and the State Fire Marshal's Office, according to Section 5 of the proclamation, which also seeks cooperation from other state agencies and political subdivisions.
Garber said his deputies will respond to all complaints, urging the business to comply. Repeated violations, he said, will be referred to the State Fire Marshal's Office for enforcement.
Vermilion Parish Sheriff Mike Couvillon has taken a similar position. He wrote in a news release Tuesday that his office was asked by the State Fire Marshal's Office to assist them by responding to complaints about non-compliance with the mask mandate.
His deputies, if advised a business is not requiring customers to comply, will visit the business and "give them a gentle reminder."
"We will not enforce compliance upon any businesses at this time," Couvillon said.
Like Garber, Couvillon said repeat offenders will be referred to the State Fire Marshal's Office. His office will only get further involved if a customer refuses to leave a business when asked to do so because they will not wear a mask.