Assembly Committee Approves Bill to Fine Those Refusing to Wear a Mask in Stores

The New Jersey legislature is looking to put some teeth into Gov. Phil Murphy’s mask mandate, as one Assemblyman stated “there needs to be some sort of penalty to drive home the point that this mandate is not optional.” 

The state’s Assembly Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would penalize customers who enter stores without a mask in an effort to increase usage in New Jersey. Legislators sponsoring the bill say it is a response of too many Americans refusing to wear one in public during the coronavirus pandemic.

Supporters of the bill point to the mounting research showing the efficacy of wearing a mask in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently stated in Congressional testimony he believes the pandemic could be brought under control in a matter of 60 days if “we could get everybody to wear a mask right now.”

Helps Economy

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) said the use of masks are critical to keeping business owners, their staff and customers safe and operating.

“We know what it takes to reduce the transmission of COVID-19: wearing face coverings in public and maintaining a safe distance from others when possible,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-37). “As New Jersey continues to enter into our ‘new normal,’ we must ensure that we are doing all that we can to keep our communities safe on the road back.” 

“Wearing a mask is a show of respect for the health of others around you as well as the sacrifices that have been made during this difficult time,” said the assemblywoman. “I believe that this legislation is an important step in ensuring that New Jersey continues on the right track towards recovery.”

$500 Fines Possible

The bill proposes fining an individual up to $500 for entering or remaining in a New Jersey store without properly wearing a mask that covers both their nose and mouth if the store has signage indicating a mask requirement. The bill’s stipulations would remain in effect for the duration of the public health and state of emergency.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28) said the law is needed as many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been “needlessly and dangerously” politicized.

“We need to look at the facts based on what we know right now, which is that wearing a mask around other people—especially indoors—significantly reduces the spread of this deadly virus,” said Caputo. “Although many residents have been following the Governor’s mask mandate, those who aren’t put us all at risk.”

“That means this is truly a matter of life and death, which we cannot take lightly…One way or another, we’re all in this pandemic together, and must all do our part to prevent the spread of this virus.”

Masks in Public

Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17) noted although 75% of Americans support face mask requirements in public, more than 15% rarely or never wear a mask outside their homes.

“Our state simply cannot allow people to continue to flout the rules in public spaces,” said Danielsen. “By ignoring mask mandates and strolling into a store without one, these individuals are willfully putting lives at risk. Other people have a right to go to work or patronize a business without fearing for their health because someone else chooses to ignore the danger of their actions.”

Intolerable Behavior

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-20) added “Someone entering a business establishment and deciding the mask requirement does not apply to them places other people in harm’s way, which is why that behavior won’t be tolerated. There has been enough information and messaging around masks that everyone should know by now why they are so important.”

Quijano noted if a resident of New Jersey is strongly opposed to the idea of a mask, they have the option of curbside pickup or online deliveries to avoid wearing a face covering.

The bill now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

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