Isaiah Lary of Wales speaks last month during an Androscoggin County Commission meeting in Auburn about his feelings that the state’s mask mandate may be unconstitutional. Several commissioners were not wearing masks during the meeting. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

AUBURN — County Commissioner Isaiah Lary will introduce a resolution Wednesday at the Androscoggin County Commission meeting opposing mask mandates by local, state and federal governments.

The county representative from Wales has at previous commission meetings vehemently opposed the state’s requirement that masks be worn in public.

The resolution complains that Gov. Janet Mills’ executive orders interfere with people’s liberty “to dress, work, exercise their religion, assemble, shop and conduct lives as they choose.”

“We, the Androscoggin County Commission do hereby resolve and acknowledge that all citizens, businesses and visitors of Androscoggin County are free to wear or not wear masks or other similar devices, and to peaceably assemble for religious or secular reasons, according to the dictates of their own conscience and preference.”

The rationale for the resolution opposing the governor’s executive orders is described in 13 paragraphs, which disagree with the science, believes the governor overstepped her authority and tramples on the rights of citizens.

The resolution disputes the science of wearing face coverings, saying “there is scant scientific evidence to date that cloth masks prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Human Services dispute that view.

“The scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of wearing masks to limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear and well established in the U.S. and globally,” Jackie Farwell, director of communications for the Maine DHHS said in a statement released Monday. “Based on this evidence, the U.S. CDC has called on Americans to wear masks as a powerful weapon to slow transmission of the virus, protect their communities, and get back to normal faster.”

The resolution also complains about the perceived overreach by the governor with her executive orders on mask wearing, social distancing and other restrictions on businesses.

Androscoggin County Commissioner John Michael of Auburn, center, speaks privately with Commissioner Brian Ames of Lewiston during a conversation about the state’s mask mandate at a commission meeting last month in Auburn. Chairwoman Sally Christner of Turner is on the right. Several commissioners were not wearing face coverings during the meeting. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“Fear has long been used by governments to control people and manipulate them to give up their liberties in exchange for perceived ‘security’ that has later turned into tyranny,” the resolution states. “Mills’ using of her emergency powers have repeatedly violated the Maine State Constitution.”

The governor’s orders, issued Dec. 11, state that “owners and operators of all indoor public spaces – regardless of the type of entity or size – must not allow those who refuse to wear a face covering to enter or remain in their venue. ”

The order further states, “in the event of noncompliance with enforcement, the state has the option of taking action against a facility’s operating license, and violations of Executive Orders are a Class E crime, punishable by up to 180 days imprisonment and $1,000 fine. Those who are made aware of the face covering requirement and insist on entering an establishment can be removed and charged with trespassing by law enforcement.”

The mandate to wear masks bristled commissioners at their most recent meeting, Jan. 20, when discussing a proposed COVID-19 protocol for informing county employees if someone in the county building tests positive. Register of Probate Thomas Reynolds had told commissioners that some county employees did not feel safe in the building.

Four of the seven commissioners — Lary, Brian Ames of Lewiston, Terri Kelly of Mechanic Falls and John Michael of Auburn — did not wear masks at the Jan. 20 meeting, nor did county Administrator Larry Post.

Chairwoman Sally Christner of Turner and Noel Madore and Roland Poirier, both of Lewiston, did wear face coverings at that meeting.

Reynolds, who chairs the Safety Committee, is expected to report back to commissioners Wednesday on their recommendations on a COVID-19 policy.

Christner said Tuesday that the committee met and addressed some of those concerns, how to implement such a policy and make it work in the various work stations and rooms in the county building. She said she was pleased with their ideas.

She did express some concerns about Lary’s resolution.

“A lot of people share his concerns,” Christner said. “I’ve gotten emails from people who have read his resolution and agree with him. It might be the right fight but the wrong location. I’m not sure the county commission is the best place for that.”

The meeting is set for 5:15 p.m. Wednesday in the commissioners’ meeting room on the second floor of the county courthouse.

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