The state’s COVID-19 protocols for masks just got tougher — for people who don’t wear facial coverings and businesses that don’t enforce mask protocols.
The state is clamping down on anyone who’s not complying with state rules regarding wearing masks in public, with violators facing $1,000 or $10,000 fines.
A state executive order put into place on Friday is stricter and can impose fines for violators, according to an email sent to Jefferson County Chairman Scott A. Gray, a member of the control room, a group of officials from surrounding counties who are dealing with coronavirus issues.
Building owners must now deny entrance to anyone not wearing a mask. They can be fined if they don’t. Previously, it was at the discretion of the building owner what to do about facial coverings.
“Any person over two years of age and able to medically tolerate a face-covering must wear a mask or face-covering when in public and unable to maintain social distance,” according to the new, stricter executive order. Violators could face the $1,000 per day fine.
Employees in the workplace also must be provided a mask or face-covering and must wear it when in contact with customers or the public, or are unable to socially distance.
The county learned about the new executive order on Monday, Mr. Gray said.
“It’s a state law,” Mr. Gray said. “We have to enforce state laws.”
If someone refuses to cooperate when entering a building, the owner can call local law enforcement to enforce mask wearing and enforce the fine, Jefferson County Attorney David J. Paulsen said.
A building owner who willfully allows someone to not wear a facial covering and allows entrance to the property also could face a fine under Section 12-b of the Public Health Law, which is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.
The county continues to receive “a steady flow” of complaints of businesses not complying with the executive orders for masking, social distancing of six feet and other state coronavirus protocols, Mr. Gray said.
The biggest violator has been Walmart, which recently came under scrutiny for allowing the state’s protocols to be violated at the Watertown and Evans Mills stores.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Gray said the county was receiving numerous complaints that Walmart was not following the state’s social distancing rules for the coronavirus.
The county was getting complaints on a daily basis about Walmart in regards to overcapacity at its local stores, social distancing and that both customers and employees were not wearing facial coverings.
Since then, Walmart employees have improved monitoring the situation and hired a security firm to watch entrances for violators, Mr. Gray said.
When the county receives a complaint, letters are sent out that remind businesses that they must comply with state guidelines.
The stricter masking rules come at a time when the state also is getting stricter with people who travel from other states.
Travelers from 19 states with high COVID-19 infections are required to self-isolate for two weeks as part of a June 25 order. They can be fined $2,000 if they don’t quarantine.