Sheriff Soignet addresses COVID mask mandate, enforcement

William “Bill” Upthegrove
July 15, 2020
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On Monday, July 13, 2020, members of the Terrebonne Parish Council asked Sheriff Tim Soignet about enforcement options relating to the mask mandate issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards.


“A mandate is not a law,” Sheriff Soignet said, expressing hope that all people in the community will do what is best to ensure the safety of themselves and others. 


“Everybody needs to take some responsibility and get the better end of this, that’s where we need to go. We can’t shut somebody down or arrest them simply because they are not wearing a mask. What law are we going to charge them with violating? There is no law.”


Absence of a law, the Sheriff said, does not mean there should be an absence of responsibility. However, he told Council members that as a member of the military for nearly a quarter century, he is personally aware of what it means to sacrifice for the greater good, and that this is what people are being called on to do at the present time.


“People are being asked to make a different sort of sacrifice now, to fight an invisible enemy,” Sheriff Soignet later said. “Each of us has to do our part and act appropriately, for the sake of ourselves and for the sake of others, especially our seniors, who are at the greatest risk.”


The Sheriff met Monday morning with Houma Police Chief Dana Coleman, Fire Chief Keith Ward, Parish Public Safety Director Steve Ponville, and representatives from the Louisiana Department of Health and the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The officials agreed that education is the preferred response to reported violations of the mandate.


The Governor stated in his executive order that the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness as well as the State Fire Marshal are directed to ensure compliance.


If a consumer sees that patrons or employees of a business are not wearing masks, the officials agreed, the first step is to notify management or an employee of the business. If the response from the business is unsatisfactory, it is recommended that the State Fire Marshal be contacted at 1-800-256-5452.