Local law enforcement officers are now on the lookout for gatherings of more than 10 people, following a directive by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, officials said.

According to Story County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Nick Lennie, the penalty associated with disobeying the governor's order is a simple misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of $625 and up to 30 days in jail.

But Story County law enforcement agencies including the sheriff's office, and the Ames, Nevada, Story City and Huxley police departments, are opting to educate the public about social distancing guidelines prior to issuing a citation, officials said.

“We're not going to go out and write a bunch of tickets because I think that'd be ridiculous, especially during these times,” Huxley Police Chief Gerry Stoll said. “We will, however, go up to people and remind them of the governor's order and assure that everyone is compliant.”

County law enforcement agencies contacted Tuesday said they shared Stoll's point of view.

“Truly our first step is to educate and inform,” Lennie said. “If we do have an issue with a group or with somebody violating those orders of 10 or more (people), we would cite them.”

While most of the citizens throughout Story County are cognizant of the governor's emergency proclamation, according to officials, departments have still received several calls in regard to gatherings of more than 10 people since the governor declared a state of emergency March 17.

“When this all first started three weeks ago, we had a party one night, I think, right before the students left town where there were more than 10 people, and we had to go break it up,” Ames police Cmdr. Jason Tuttle said. “Since then, most of the complaints we've received have been about businesses that are open, or a lot of people at the playground or skate park.”

In March, Iowa State University made the decision to closes its residence halls and move its's spring semester classes online.

Since then, most students have left Ames and the number of calls per service has drastically declined, according to Tuttle, and call volume has dropped nearly 50 percent.

Although law enforcement agencies are the ones constantly patrolling for people breaking the law, in regard to large gatherings, officials said they will rely on reports from everyday citizens to be able to stay on top of everything.

“We're not going to send officers [out] repeatedly to make sure groups of people aren't gathering at Brookside Park,” Tuttle said. “We have other things to patrol, so we're really relying on our citizens to report large gatherings if they see them.”

And although these are uncharted times for many, including local law enforcement agencies, training for instances like this can only do so much, officials said.

“I've been an officer since 1985 and this is the first time I've ever had to deal with an emergency proclamation that separates people, so this is really new grounds for me (and other officers),” Ric Martinez, the public safety director for Nevada said.