Northampton issues 1st fine for mask violation, others have been warned

  • In this undated photo provided by Outdoor Research in September 2020, a worker moves a box of surgical masks made by the company as they are manufactured and packaged in Seattle. AP PHOTO/GERARDO VILLALOBOS

  • Upper Main Street in downtown Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/29/2020 10:44:44 AM

NORTHAMPTON — More than six months after starting to put face covering rules in place, the city has fined one business owner for violating any COVID-19 related mandate and given out written warnings to several others, records as of mid-October show.

The lone fine to date went to Virginia Cummings, who owns Doyle’s Package Store on Maple Street in Florence. She was fined $300 for an alleged mask violation last month.

The fine stems from random COVID-19 inspections conducted by Northampton Police Department Lt. Victor Caputo on Sept. 10, according to the Police Department’s citation listing obtained through a public record request. Caputo wrote in the citation that when he went into Doyle’s that day, both Cummings and someone who looked like a customer were not wearing masks.

“She would later explain that the female was her ‘tenant’ and not a customer,” the citation states. “She was advised people inside the store had to be wearing masks.”

Cummings, who declined to comment, had been warned several times about allegedly violating the order after other random inspections and complaints to the Board of Health, the document reads. She was given verbal warnings in May, June and August, according to police documents. A written warning was issued in mid-August.

The second violation of coronavirus-related rules results in a $300 fine, according to the order approved by the Health Department that went into effect in late March. The city started requiring masks for customers and employees of essential businesses in April, and in May expanded the order.

In May, the governor signed a similar order requiring face coverings in public places when social distancing of six feet is not possible and putting in place $300 fines for violations.

“To my knowledge, this is the only citation that has been issued by our agency,” Police Chief Jody Kasper wrote in an email.

Cummings’ written warning is the only one police have given out, according to the department’s records bureau, though the Health Department has handed out several written warnings to businesses for violations of COVID-19 rules, records show.

Pizza Factory, a restaurant on Main Street in Florence, received a written warning in July.

“Several employees noted without face coverings,” reads the Health Department’s description of the violation. The restaurant has one employee who has a medical exemption from wearing a mask, said an employee who answered the phone Wednesday who declined to provide their full name. 

In August, the Health Department gave U-Haul on King Street a written warning.

“Your business has been found in violation of both local and state regulations regarding the prevention of COVID-19 spread,” the Health Department stated in an Aug. 21 letter to the business.

Complaints “included a variety of grievances including violation of the City of Northampton’s mask mandate,” and both the Police Department and Board of Health investigated, according to the letter.

Officials at U-Haul did not reply to a request for comment.

A similar written warning was sent to HZ Electric Supply on Pleasant Street on Sept. 4.

“Masks are required to enter,” assistant branch manager Brian Mikuszewski said. “As far as any other kind of comment, I have nothing.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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