Fighting Words: Should non-mask wearers be penalized?

In amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, should non-mask wearers face penalties for not complying with mask mandates?

Adelle Engmann – OSM Manager

With more than 6.2 million confirmed Coronavirus cases and at least 188,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, the idea is simple – no mask, no service.  

According to The Tacoma News Tribune, on July 7, a mandatory face-covering order was placed for employers, businesses and the general public in Washington state. The mandate requires residents and visitors to wear a cloth face-covering in public shared spaces indoors and outdoors, with some exceptions in certain circumstances like dining in a restaurant.

The purpose of the mandatory mask order is to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which has dominated the U.S. the most. Our state currently has over 70,000 confirmed virus cases as of Sept. 7, according to the Washington State Department of Health (WADOH). As reported by the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center, other countries who have implemented a face-covering mandate, social distancing and quarantining have seen a decrease in COVID-19 transmission. A violation of the mask mandate can result in a $100 fine or up to 90 days in jail. The consequences of not following the mask order should be abided by for several reasons.

If a person chooses not to follow the outlined face-covering order approved by Gov. Jay Inslee, they are subject to penalties under RCW 43.06.220 section 5, which states “Any person willfully violating any provision of an order issued by the governor under this section is guilty of a gross misdemeanor”. 

While a gross misdemeanor is considered a minor crime, it’s still punishable by a fine or jail time. Furthermore, the Washington State Legislative in the same Revised Code of Washington Code (RCW) 43.06.220 section 1, gives the governor the power in a state of emergency to prohibit and limit gatherings and establish curfews. 

A number of people may argue that a mask mandate order and its ramifications are unconstitutional. However, it’s completely within the state board of health’s, and governor’s, authority. According to RCW 43.20.050 section 2(f), the state board of health can “Adopt rules for the prevention and control of infectious and noninfectious diseases,” and under section 2(d), “can adopt rules related to public health.” Also, under RCW 43.70.200, the secretary of health, under the request of a local health officer, can take legal action to enforce public health laws and rules of the state board of health.

With the Coronavirus pandemic affecting the countries around the globe, there are still a number of uncertainties in place. According to the Washington State Coronavirus Response, 20% to 40% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 are asymptomatic and still risk spreading it to others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing masks to protect the people around us and prevent people who may be exposed to COVID-19 to spread the virus. A face covering or face mask reduces the transmission of respiratory droplets when a person speaks, coughs or sneezes.  

With face coverings in place, the spread of COVID-19 is most likely reduced in public settings, especially with other preventative precautions. Therefore, a mask mandate and the penalties associated with it are necessary to maintain a sense of sustainability during these times.

Elissa Blankenship – Online Reporter

If America is considered to be the land of freedom, issuing fines towards those who don’t wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic infringes upon people’s rights. 

Washington state shouldn’t adopt policies that would hinder its people with additional financial difficulties. The financial impact of the Coronavirus has affected a number of Washington residents with the loss of jobs and income and has already forced small businesses to shut down.

Depending on the size of the fine, it could push Washington residents who were already on the brink of requiring government aid into such programs. Gov. Jay Inslee has already announced the potential consequence of a $100 fine following a mask violation, while other states like California have implemented fines up to $500.

Should Inslee increase the fine, the possible fees associated with not wearing a mask wouldn’t surpass the economic impact of more individuals requiring additional funding from the state. If such a fine were to be passed, Washington could expect uproar from people who feel that their rights have been violated, as well as additional closures of unstable local businesses.

Jail time up to 90 days also has the potential to do more harm than good for Washington residents, as it can cause unemployment or lack of money to be left in its wake.

Furthermore, the mask mandate is not a law — it’s considered a recommendation which a number of stores and restaurants already try to enforce by requiring masks before permitting entry. However, individuals have the right to choose whether or not to wear a mask based on their own circumstances or judgment.

In some establishments across America, like the Freedom Café in Durham, New Hampshire, employees and customers alike are allowed to make their own judgment calls regarding proper health procedures. In areas of Washington, such as Morton or Randle, the public seems to be more relaxed about wearing masks than larger cities like Seattle or Olympia.

It’s not unknown that regional beliefs tend to differ in this way. Some might believe the Coronavirus is a hoax, while others might believe in developing immunity to a virus. Who are we to tell these people to put on a mask, especially if we can purposefully distance ourselves from them by personal choice?

Additionally, individuals may not be wearing masks for medical reasons, such as the hindrance it creates for those diagnosed with asthma. Should conditions like this make it hard for someone to breathe, they shouldn’t be fined for not wearing a facial covering.

Members don’t need to wear facial coverings in some gyms, such as the Shelton Athletic Club, so long as they can maintain 6 or more feet of distance between each other. The emphasis here should be on personal choice and assessment of one’s own health conditions, as well as keeping a distance from others to respect their own beliefs.

Additionally, under new business regulations, a number of establishments have limited the amount of non-staff occupants in a building at any time. This limited capacity ultimately makes such mask regulations unnecessary within specific conditions of social distancing. 

While taking steps to encourage precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s also important to remember the principles that this country was founded upon. Our government should do everything in its power to help the prosperity of its people, and having such fines would be counterproductive to our economic recovery.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Fighting Words: Should non-mask wearers be penalized?

by admin time to read: 4 min