It's time to start handing out fines to people who refuse to wear masks


Legal options

On July 10, Michigan's Governor Whitmer announced an Executive Order that would enforce a requirement to wear a face mask while in public. Businesses must require staff and patrons to wear masks or risk having their license suspended, and individuals, with limited exceptions, must wear masks in public or risk a $500 fine.
It is now well-known that masks are an essential factor in reducing the spread of COVID-19. A recent study shows that 45,000 deaths could be avoided by November if 95% of people wore masks in public. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that if everyone in America were to wear a mask, the virus could be under control in four to eight weeks. And with mounting evidence that coronavirus is airborne, masks in public are more non-negotiable than ever before.
But, it seems that no amount of education about how masks work to protect other people will sway some conservatives, who feel that flaunting an uncovered face is more than a personal choice — it's a political display of their "freedom" and "rights."
But studies also showed that buckling up in a car can cut the risk of fatal injury almost in half and, over time, seat belt laws and fines have worked to shift the culture of seat belt wearing. Enforcing mask mandates can work in the same way. If people won't mask up out of common courtesy and respect for the health and safety of those around them, then maybe they will feel compelled to do so for the sake of their own pocketbook.
The executive order makes exceptions for people with medical conditions that can't tolerate wearing a face mask, and some businesses have used that caveat, citing ADA and HIPAA laws as thinly veiled excuses to staunchly display their conservative political badge.
But to comply with ADA guidelines, businesses would merely have to make reasonable accommodations. Curbside pickup and delivery, which most businesses that are still surviving are already doing, are reasonable accommodations in a scenario like this one. HIPAA laws, which prevent health plans and health care providers from sharing a patient's medical records or private medical information, don't apply to this situation.
Even more alarming than select businesses claiming to honor their patrons' "rights" to shop unmasked are a handful of sheriff's departments in the state that have released statements saying that they won't enforce the order. In other words, police forces are aligning themselves with mostly entitled white people who refuse to comply with efforts to contain the spread of a virus. And amid the current uprising against police violence against Black people, it is particularly telling that this issue is where a sheriff's office will choose to speak out and draw a line in the sand.

The unfortunate backlash

The other day, my oldest son, who works at a grocery store, told me about the latest irate shoppers who were asked to mask-up or leave. The couple yelled and waved their phone in the manager's face to show the supposed laws they claimed the store was breaking by denying them entry. The manager calmly relayed the alternatives of curbside pickup or delivery that they could utilize if they couldn't wear a mask. They eventually sulked away.
But these encounters don't always end with verbal abuse. Throughout the state, interactions like these have escalated to physical violence against store patrons and staff who make requests for others to use a face covering. These (mostly low-wage) workers have had to endure an uptick in this kind of violence from a swath of people who refuse to wear a mask on a philosophical hill they're willing to let everyone die on. Store greeters job descriptions are now more like those of nightclub bouncers, with the expectation that a significant portion of their job is to endure abuse from belligerent people.
The select Michigan sheriffs who are taking this stance are placing their politics over the lives of the people in their communities by enabling behavior that increases the spread of the virus. And, importantly, they are placing front line workers' lives, like my son's, in danger — not just from the potential of repeated exposure to the virus, but from the violent behavior of entitled patrons.
Both of my kids deserve better. We all do. A driver's ed instructor or retail shopper shouldn't get to choose whether to wear a mask based on what makes them feel more comfortable or based on their own, political ideology.
During a pandemic, individuals, businesses, and government agencies should be making choices and policies based on the best interest of public health, not allegiance to some political stripe. And if it takes a hefty fine to compel some people to care, so be it.
It's time to start handing out fines to people who refuse to wear masks It's time to start handing out fines to people who refuse to wear masks Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 04:13 Rating: 5

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