FAIR LAWN-GLEN ROCK, NJ - As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, public officials are reiterating the need for the public to adhere to a governor-mandate to wear a mask. But, is there a penalty for not doing so? Currently, there is not.
Many stores and public buildings have signs asking those who enter to wear a mask, or they could be denied entry. In spite of some public complaints about those who do not wear a mask, local officials say there is little they can do to force the issue.
Fair Lawn Mayor Kurt Peluso said there are "no penalties for people who don't wear a mask."
"Most people listen to the directive to wear one," he said at a recent Economic Development Committee virtual meeting. "We're hoping there will be changes at the state level, but we can't punish people for not wearing one."
Peluso said he had recently participated in a state level meeting with other area mayors about why people should wear a mask to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
"I am a firm believer in masks," Glen Rock Mayor Kristine Morieko said in an email to TAPinto. "It’s a simple - non pharmaceutical way we can protect each other. It is literally the easiest thing you can do."
"That being said, I did see a town in West Chester make a law for masks - and I printed out their presentation," she said.
According to the New Castle town government website, "while voluntary compliance with ... health and safety precautions on public and private property is preferred, the Town has determined that the grave health risks and economic impacts associated with COVID-19 require enforcement mechanisms to protect the public health, safety and welfare of Town residents."
Anyone in New Castle is required to wear a mask whether on public or private property, indoors or outdoors, with a penalty threat if found guilty of $250 for the first violation, and up to $500 for any subsequent violation occurring within a one-year period.
But Mayor Morieko is not willing to go there.
"At this time, I have no desire to punitively promote mask wearing," she said. "I would prefer to appeal to residents' sound judgement."
According to Gov. Phil Murphy's Executive Order 163, individuals must wear a mask "when it is not practicable for individuals in outdoor public spaces to socially distance and keep a six-foot distance from others, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners."
While the executive order states there are penalties for violations of the order listed in N.J.S.A. App. A:9-49 and -50, it is difficult to discern the specifics.