As Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh urge people to wear face masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Cambridge, Somerville and Peabody are now threatening fines ranging from $300 to $1,000 for violating their mask orders.
“Those who willfully do not want to comply, it will be necessary that we have a fine as a proper deterrent,” Mayor Joseph Curtatone said at a Monday press conference at Somerville City Hall.
“At the end of the day it’s about people being safe, not allowing people to become ill and saving lives,” he said.
Somerville will require face masks in public — both in outdoor public spaces and inside businesses — beginning Wednesday for anyone over 2 years old to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Police will just issue verbal warnings for the first week before handing out written warning or fines, with exceptions made for people medically unable to tolerate a face mask.
“Ticketing for this is our last resort, but we do have to put public health first,” Somerville Police Chief David Fallon said in a statement. “So for those individuals who willfully fail to comply, we will reserve this option.”
Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis DePasquale said in a joint statement about their $300 fine order: “We are concerned about the number of residents who continue to shop, walk, run and bike throughout the city without proper face coverings … . This mandate emphasizes the importance of wearing a face covering, not as an option, but as a requirement in our effort to combat this pandemic together.”
Offenders of Peabody’s mask policy could face $1,000 fines, according to a board of health order targeting people entering businesses — not while in outside public places like in Somerville. Peabody officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Some face-mask orders carry smaller fines — it’s $50 in Brookline — while other orders such as Medford’s do not have fines attached to them.
Boston hasn’t ordered the use of face masks, though Walsh is urging people to wear them. Walsh on Monday slammed people for not wearing masks while grocery shopping.
“Quite honestly, this is unacceptable,” Walsh said. “You’re putting other people at risk. You’re putting the grocery stores at risk, and you’re putting yourself at risk.”
When asked about implementing a mandatory mask order and fines, Walsh said, “I feel like we shouldn’t be having to do that in these times … if we need to, we will.”
The state earlier this month issued an advisory urging people to wear face masks.
“If you can’t socially distance, you should wear a face covering,” Baker said at a Monday press conference. “Not so much to protect you from other people, but to protect other people from you because such a significant portion of the population that gets infected with this appears to not show symptoms at any point.”
Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, president of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs Association, said, “Education before enforcement is more important … . But if you get to a point where people are not heeding those warnings, then you have to do what you have to do.”
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