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Local Governments Pledging To Enforce Mask Wearing With Fines Amid Coronavirus Surge

TOPLINE

As the number of Covid-19 cases spikes nationwide, local legislators from California to Florida are declaring they will aggressively enforce health orders by issuing citations and fines to businesses that don’t comply and to individuals that refuse to wear face coverings.

KEY FACTS

Some 50,203 new coronavirus cases were reported in the U.S on Wednesday, a record for one day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

New Mexico’s Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday that people caught ignoring mask requirements in public places can be fined $100 and that businesses evading health orders will be hit with workplace citations and misdemeanor criminal charges.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department West Hollywood Station announced Wednesday it would start citing individuals violating the local mask mandate.

Deputies will begin by issuing $250 citations; the second offense will come with a $1,000 fine, the third a $2,000 fine, with each carrying a $50 processing fee.

“Our last option was to conduct enforcement by issuing an Administrative Citation, but the risk to community health is too great,” said the West Hollywood Sheriff Department.

Monday in Miami, Mayor Francis Suarez announced harsher penalties for businesses that don’t comply with emergency orders to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“For 10 days they’ll be closed for the first instance, 15 days for the second instance, and 30 days for the third instance,” Suarez said, adding that business owners would be subject to arrest after a third violation.

The Knox County Board of Health in Tennessee voted Wednesday to approve a mask mandate that goes into effect Friday, and the board announced that “violating it is classified as a Class C misdemeanor, punishable under state law by up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine.”

Key Background:

There is understandable urgency among many government officials in states that have been hardest hit over the last few weeks. Florida’s Department of Health confirmed 10,109 additional cases of Covid-19 Thursday, setting a new single-day record and pushing the state’s total confirmed cases to nearly 170,000. California Gov. Newson announced on Wednesday that indoor entertainment venues like movie theaters, museums and indoor dining would be shut down again in 19 counties.

Critical Quote:

“There is no federal strategy,” said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “If the federal strategy early in this pandemic had been to require all Americans to wear masks, more things would be open, fewer people would die, and the rate of infection and transmission for the entire country would be much lower.”

Chief Critics:

In some parts of the country, law enforcement officials have resisted statewide mandates. Last Thursday, three sheriffs in North Carolina declared that they would not enforce Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide mask mandate. In Washington, a Republican sheriff told residents “don’t be a sheep” in response to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s order for residents to wear face coverings in public. Earlier this week, after Los Angeles County announced it would close its beaches for the Fourth of July weekend, an L.A. County sheriff said his department won’t enforce the closure order.

Further Reading:

LA Orders All Beaches Closed July 4 Weekend, But LA Sheriff Department Won’t Enforce Order (Forbes) 

New Mexico Announces $100 Fines for Flouting Face Mask Rule (US News) 

Masks will be required in Baton Rouge starting Friday, but what if you don’t wear one? Fines (The Advocate) 

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