Mask violations can come with $1K fine in Northampton

  • Latisha Rocke, of Belchertown, talks about the Northampton mask mandate on Wednesday, Aug. 11, in downtown Northampton. Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 8/16/2021 9:05:09 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city’s indoor mask mandate carries a $1,000 daily fine for any “person or entity in control of a public indoor space” who flouts the order, and it encourages residents not to confront each other about violations.

The order, approved by the Board of Health last week in response to rising cases of COVID-19 and the coronavirus’ delta variant, is in effect until it is rescinded, and it applies to everyone — with limited exceptions — regardless of vaccination status.

“We know that masks slow or prevent transmission of all COVID-19 variants so far,” the order reads. “We are committed to preventing transmission, keeping our numbers as low as possible, and (protecting) our most vulnerable from severe illness.”

Anyone over age 5 must wear a mask over their mouth and nose at all times when inside a restaurant, bar, event venue, hotel/motel, gym, salon, place of worship or any other indoor space that is open for the public to enter and conduct business. Masks must be secured with ties or ear loops, and may be removed when eating or drinking.

The “person or entity” in control of a public space is responsible for enforcing the mandate, and those who fail to do so “shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 per day,” even if they are acting as the “servant or agent” of another person, firm or corporation. State law gives boards of health the authority to impose fines against those who violate “reasonable health regulations.”

“Nothing in this order is intended to encourage residents to act as an enforcement authority for the City of Northampton,” the order reads. “Residents should not take it upon themselves to approach people in violation of this order. Residents are urged to focus solely on their personal compliance with this order.”

Exemptions to the mask requirement include those with a medical excuse, such as difficulty breathing or an inability to remove the mask without help, and children who “compromise mask integrity with frequent manipulations or removals.” Singers and those playing brass and woodwind instruments do not have to wear a mask if they are standing 10 feet away from “any members of the public,” the order reads.

Enclosed office spaces that have a barrier between workers and the public are exempt when staff is not interacting with the public and the barrier is closed.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.
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