Connecticut’s governor will sign an executive order Tuesday designed to hit people where it hurts – in the wallet – if they threaten the public by refusing to wear masks to help slow the spread of Covid-19.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia require wearing masks in public, but Government Ned Lamont’s order makes Connecticut one of the few states that will issue fines to those who do not comply. From midnight Thursday, residents could be fined $ 100 if caught in violation of the mask mandate.
Prior to Lamont’s order, the only option Connecticut police had to punish those who ignored the mask mandate was to charge them with a misdemeanor that was considered too punitive, state operations chief Josh Geballe told the Hartford Courant.
“Not much was done because a lot of people saw it [a misdemeanor charge] as too harsh to fail to wear a mask if you could not get social distance, ”Geballe said. “So they asked for this new tool, a violation that was a bit of a downward enforcement.”
In addition to giving law enforcement “a new tool,” Lamont’s order also imposes uniformity across the state on how mask mandates are to be enforced, Geballe added.
Cities like Simsbury, for example, had already imposed a $ 250 fine for mask violations or physical distance orders.
“It has come up again and again, to the point where we felt it was an appropriate thing to do,” Geballe said.
Lamont’s executive order also imposes a $ 250 fine for attending indoor events with more than 25 people or large outdoor gatherings with more than 100 people. And people who organize these events without sanction are fined $ 500.
Will it impose these heavy fines for not actually wearing masks?
Brian Higgins, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former police chief in Bergen County, New Jersey, said he is not so sure.
“People still do not stop driving faster because there are fines, people still do not stop at stop signs because there are fines,” Higgins told NBC News. “I think it will have some impact, but I think it will still be difficult to enforce.
“Here’s the problem,” he said. “Technically, you should only wear masks if you are not capable of social distance. So it becomes a judgment call for the one who performs the enforcement. There is also this moving scale. People see masks being enforced in one place and not the other. ”
The result is widespread confusion about when and where to wear a mask that makes some people angry and less cooperative.
“I see the extremes all the time,” Higgins said. “I see people walking all alone down a wooded path wearing masks. I see the people who are hell not wearing masks that go in crowds. In my house, the rules are the rules and we follow the rules. ”
Polly Price, a professor of law and public health at Emory University in Atlanta, said fines could be effective for some people “on the same theory that speeding tickets discourage speeding and traffic fines encourage the use of seat belts and other traffic safety issues.”
“So it may be that the very possibility of a fine may push more people to comply with them than otherwise,” she said.
But Price said she was skeptical about whether handing out fines was “a good use of police time.” She said what could be more effective is to adapt the concept of “no shoes, no shirt, no service” that is currently in place for many stores and other indoor venues to include masks.
“But store owners must be willing to confront non-compliant customers, and the local police force is willing to answer ‘intrusions’ and disruption calls,” she said.
Other jurisdictions outside of Connecticut have also either proposed or imposed fines on people who reject mask mandates.
For example, while California does not have a state penalty for not wearing a mask in public, some local governments have imposed their own fines. And in Illinois, government JB Pritzker’s emergency rule that would fine companies up to $ 2,500 for not enforcing mandatory mask rules survived a challenge from Republicans in the state legislature.
Connecticut was hit hard in the early days of the pandemic as it was concentrated in the Northeast and has reported 4,485 deaths out of 54,895 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to the latest NBC News figures.
Meanwhile, New York City commuters who refuse to wear masks on the subway, buses and other trains now face a $ 50 fine.
While Connecticut was able to flatten the curve, the state’s positivity has risen above 1 percent again to 1.2 percent in recent days as more colleges and schools reopened, a fact that Lamont said featured in his decision to sign the new executive order.
But overall, Lamont said Monday, “I think the numbers are still going in the right direction.”
The same could not be said elsewhere, as the United States continued to report thousands of more cases and another 800 more deaths each day, while the total number of deaths from the pandemic climbs close to 200,000.
In the seven months since President Donald Trump privately told reporter Bob Woodward that coronavirus was a “deadly thing,” the United States continued to lead the world with 195,866 deaths and over 6.5 million confirmed cases, NBC News figures showed Tuesday.
Trump has denied lying about the severity of the pandemic to the U.S. public, but right now the U.S. accounts for over one-fifth of the world’s 929,444 deaths and one-fifth of the more than 29.3 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 dashboard.
Most of the new deaths and cases continue to be generated in the southern and sun-belt states, which began reopening in May at Trump’s urging, just as the worst of the pandemic was about to hit. Also seeing an increase in late cases are sparsely populated Midwestern states like South Dakota, which last month hosted a violent motorcycle rally in the town of Sturgis, where there was almost no physical distance or use of masks by the 400,000 or so people who participated in the 10-day festival.
In other coronavirus news:
Most Americans do not trust what Trump says about the development of a potential coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest NBC News | SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking poll. Fifty-two percent of adults say they do not trust the president’s vaccine comments, 26 percent said they did, and 20 percent fell into the “not aware” category. But most Republicans continue to trust Trump on this subject despite having made several predictions about when such a vaccine would land, most of them far more optimistic than predictions from scientists and public health officials.
The drastic lockdown that New York City introduced in the spring when the pandemic struck through the city “contributed to about a 70 percent reduction in the transmission of Covid-19,” according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “Widespread use of face clothing contributed to a further 7 percent reduction, and up to 20 percent reduction among those aged 65 and older during the first month, face coating was mandatory in public places,” the researchers concluded. Currently, the infection rate in New York City is below one percent, and the city is slowly beginning to reopen restaurants and elsewhere, albeit with limited capacity. Back in March and April, New York and the rest of the Empire State were the nation’s hotspot, and thousands died while public health officials tried to figure out how to stem the crisis. New York still leads the nation with 33,886 deaths – most of them from the start of the pandemic.
- For the first time in its 175-year history, Scientific American magazine has approved a presidential candidate. And it’s not Trump. The venerable publication cited the president’s poor pandemic performance as one of the reasons it breaks with tradition and supports Democrat Joe Biden. “The evidence and science show that Donald Trump has severely damaged the United States and its people – because he rejects evidence and science,” the editor wrote. Trump could not develop a national strategy to contain the crisis and lied repeatedly to the Americans, they added. “His lies encouraged people to engage in risky behavior, spread the virus further, and have driven wedges between Americans who take the threat seriously and those who believe in Trump’s false falsity,” they wrote.
- The Covid-19 death toll from a Maine wedding held indoors in violation of state attendance limits has now risen to five, and the total number of infections is now over 175. None of the five people , who died, attended the Aug. 7 wedding or reception at the Big Moose Inn Cabins and Campground in Millinocket, about 70 miles north of Bangor. But one of the guests was an employee of York County Jail, where 72 cases have been linked to the collection, health officials have said.
- Most children and teens who have died from Covid-19 have been black, Hispanic or suffer from underlying conditions, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report. The researchers reached their conclusion after looking more closely at the cases of 121 children and adolescents who died of coronavirus from 12 February to 31 July. Obesity and asthma were the most common underlying condition, they found. And 75 of the patients were Hispanic, Black, and American Native American / Alaskan. Dr. Rishi Desai, who did not participate in the report but was previously a CDC infectious officer, said it did not surprise him most of the deaths were minority children and teenagers. “What was a little surprising was that it was not even close,” he told NBC News. “The difference was striking.”