People wander through Fall Festival downtown

In this file photo, people wander through downtown Washington while looking at vendor's wares during Fall Festival of the Arts and Crafts Sunday, September 27.

Local governments received a varying number of complaints the first weekend Franklin County’s mask mandate was in effect.

Washington received three complaints about employees not wearing masks in local businesses, Police Chief Ed Menefee said. Officers contacted the businesses and issued warnings.

The businesses had different responses to being contacted.

“One of them not so well,” Menefee said. “The others weren’t really aware of the guidelines, so we gave them copies of the guidelines.”

Police made a record of the incidents and forwarded them to the Franklin County Health Department, Menefee said.

Washington police also received several other calls with questions about the ordinance.

Of course, with the Washington City Council passing a mask mandate of its own Monday evening, the city will now handle its own citations. Complaints will now go to city Emergency Management Director Mark Skornia, instead of the health department.

“Subsequent complaints in the same place will result in an enforcement action,” Menefee said.

The city has a policy that the first warning counts, even if it was made under the county policy, the chief said.

Menefee points to the COVID-19 data when people take issue with the mask mandates.

“I would just ask people to consider that this is the highest the infection rate has ever been, and it’s going to get higher,” he said.

Union police had not received any calls about the mask mandate as of Monday morning, Capt. Rick Neace said.

“If we should receive any calls, the complainant will be referred to the Franklin County Health Department and or the Franklin County Commission,” he said. “We will respond, of course, if there is some type of disturbance, trespassing or other violations.”

Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker, who serves as the public information officer for the health department regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, said he has been receiving the department’s calls. While they have received many calls, not many have been to report potential violations.

“A lot of it has been for clarity,” he said. “There have been questions like ‘Can we go in without a mask if we’re not XYZ?’ It clearly states, if you’re not certain, you must wear a mask in a public place.”

The time leading up to Dec. 20, when the county mask mandate is set to expire, will be a test to see if the mandate leads to lower COVID-19 positivity rates.

“One way or another, we’ll soon find out,” Brinker said. “It’s going to tell us a lot.”

Doctors have told Menefee it will take two to three weeks before the infection rate even begins to be impacted by the mask mandates, the chief said.

“That’s one of the reasons the city kept (the vote on) its own (mandate), because they were not happy with the date of the 20th,” Menefee said. “They want a metric set up for when to remove the mandate.”