While COVID-19 cases may be under control in one New Jersey City, the majority of its residents still want hefty fines coming to those who are caught not wearing a mask in public places but that's not going to happen.
The Hoboken City Council voted Wednesday against a $250 fine on those caught without the protective facewear in situations where social distancing can't be maintained. The decision was three in favor and six against the proposal.
Mayor Ravi Bhalla said it has been tried in some communities on Cape Cod.
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"If you don't have a face mask on, you automatically get a $300 fine, and from what I hear they have virtually 100 percent compliance, everyone has a mask on" Bhalla said of the measure implemented in the coastal summer vacation town of Chatham. According to the Boston Herald, the town hadn't handed out any fines for violations as of Aug. 5, opting instead for warnings.
Hoboken sent out a survey to residents, asking them how they felt about possibly imposing fines. The city received 3,661 responses between Monday and Tuesday, with more than half (51 percent) approving of a penalty and 40 percent against it.
The survey found that 70 percent of the "high risk" population, including seniors and those with underlying medical conditions, would feel safer or much sager if the city instituted a mask fine.
Additionally, 62 percent of those who responded to the survey indicated that a $250 would make other people more likely to wear masks. Meanwhile, 37 percent indicated that the fine would make them more likely to wear a face mask outdoors.
Additional findings from the survey include:
- 89% of residents said they agreed or strongly agreed that face masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19, with 11% not sure or disagreed with the claim;
- 64% of residents said they wore a face mask all or most of the time outdoors, 25% of residents said they wore a face mask some of the time outdoors and 11% of residents said they hardly ever or never wore face masks outdoors;
- 66% of residents said they would feel safer or much safer if more people were wearing face masks, while 26% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that they'd feel safer if more people were wearing masks and 8% not sure;
- 15% of respondents (549 total) indicated they were in the at-risk category identified by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, including seniors and those with serious underlying medical conditions;
- 70% of the at-risk population said they would feel safer or much safer if a $250 fine was instituted, while 26% of the at-risk population said they wouldn't feel safer or wouldn't feel safer at all;
- 51% agree or strongly agree with a fine of $250 for not wearing a face mask when social distancing is not possible, with 41% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing, and 8% not sure;
- 37% of residents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that a potential $250 fine would make them more likely to wear a face mask, with 39% of those answering saying they already wore face masks and 19% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing;
- 62% of residents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that a potential $250 fine would make others more likely to wear a face masks, with 22% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing, and 16% not sure;
- 35% of respondents indicated support for the fine amount as $250, with 30% supporting a fine between $24 and $249, and 29% not supporting any fine amount;
But for some, it's not so clear cut. One resident cited cost of living as a reason why it isn't a great idea.
"Even though it sounds great to scare people into doing it, Hoboken itself is already pricey with rents and payments of property taxes," said Megan Hunt.
Bhalla said that while there are not a lot of cases currently, he fears a second wave could be coming as school goes back into session and flu season arrives.