With the craziness that has become normal in 2020, it may still come as a shock to hear the penalties that came with executive orders. Many are aware that there are mandates in place that require masks, limit the number of people allowed in an area, and even require distancing. While we all want to slow the spread, the conflict comes when figures of authority overstep their boundaries and take this too far. With many of the new mandates came penalties for those that didn’t comply.
This articles will tell you about the evolution of these penalties and where we stand now. With Christmas coming soon, many are rethinking their plans of going home. Not only are they concerned with exposure, but also the penalties that come if you or your family are turned in for gathering to celebrate the holidays. So before you go home for Christmas, you should know that someone may come knocking at your door.
Early Penalties- A Little Background
When the mandates first were issued, the penalties were steep for those that wouldn’t comply. Whether they chose not to or were not aware of the severity, the initial penalties were so severe that politicians did a double-take and revoked them. The “stay at home” mandates forced closure of many businesses across the country as they were deemed “unessential” and not allowed to open. Little did they think that many would not survive and be unable to ever open their doors again. In this initial phase, only those who were essential to the operation of essential services were allowed to leave home and go to work. Stores were only allowed to sell “essential” items and telling you what you are allowed to purchase. For those that went anywhere, masks were required and arguments were common over the legality of forcing people to mask up.
With all of these restrictions in place, you would think that this was enough. But the threat of a jail time for refusing to comply was a real threat for many. For those in VA that didn’t comply with the mandate, the original penalty was a Class 1 Misdemeanor. This meant they could face JAIL for up to a year AND a fine of $2,500 for not following the governor’s order to stay at home and masking up in public. Businesses across the country made the news as they refused to comply and were punished severely for merely trying to stay afloat in the crisis.
These punishments caused for an outcry from the public on both sides. In this, the governors (some faster than others) began to repeal the penalties and replaced them with less severe fines while removing the threat of jail.
Where We are Now
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has been an ever-evolving crisis, the restrictions, guidance, and news has been constantly changing on how to best protect yourself and family. Thanksgiving was a normal event for many that was changed for the pandemic, and now Christmas faces similar restrictions as well.
The CDC has put out guidance for those that are traveling, the ways to keep safe, and what to do if you become ill. They stress that staying home is best and to check the local laws on their site here about requirements, but acknowledge that they can only provide advice and not mandate. Meanwhile, the states have taken this a step further and tried to take away the freedom to spend time with your families. In one interview, Dr. Mark Horne- President of the MS State Medical Association said, “We don’t really want to t see mamaw at Thanksgiving and bury her by Christmas.” Many state officials have spoken out with similar regards and therefore have tightened the reins for the restrictions.
Nearly all of the southern states have imposed mask mandates that require masks to be worn in public, capacity limits, curfews, and limiting the number of people in private gatherings. While these may seem extreme to some, the punishments have been adjusted as well. In VA, where it was previously a Class 1 Misdemeanor to be in defiance of the executive order, it is now a civil penalty that comes with a $500 fine. In NC, the penalties have been imposed to businesses through closings and removal of liquor licenses for offenses. If a business is found to not enforce the mask mandate or be over capacity, they can be fined and shut down. For every single person over capacity there is a $100 fine EACH and they are shut down for 24 hours. If they are caught a second time it goes to 48 hours and then 72 hours. The state has also revoked liquor licenses for businesses that are not in compliance. Finally in SC, officers are issues citations for those not wearing their mask. The fine costs $100 per offense that makes citizens already going through hardships forced to pay a fee that could be detrimental to their situation.
All states encourage reporting to local law enforcement (not 911 but their nonemergency number) to report those that are gathering and putting themselves at risk.
Going Home for Christmas
This means when you go to visit mom and dad over the Christmas holiday, if you are caught not wearing a mask, gathering in groups of 10 or more, not social distancing, or in defiance of any of the other regulations set about, a neighbor or “concerned citizen” aka Karen, can call the police to issue citations and cost your family money that most don’t have after this long year. There has been a continued outcry over the restrictions, causing distance in families and taking away the Christmas cheer.
With all that said, if you are traveling, I HIGHLY recommend you go on the CDC site and see what the regulations are where you are heading. You can certainly wear your mask out in public, but should be aware if the areas you’re heading to have stronger penalties and restrictions for gatherings. Being aware can help you to be prepared. While you may not want (or should really have to) wear your mask at MaMaw’s house, you may want to have it in your pocket if someone comes knocking.
For the “concerned citizens”, before you dial in, consider if it were your family. Do you really believe that a family dinner is placing the public at risk? Or do you believe there is an all out rager inside that is spreading the COVID-19 bug like wildfire. We all want to be safe this holiday season, but we also want to see our loved ones. Stay safe out there and plan ahead this year.