Covidiots don’t comply with mask orders, leaving officials, public frustrated

New bill would strengthen face-covering rules

IT’S THE MOMENT where you’re not quite sure of what to do. Someone is standing in line outside of a restaurant, or walks into an elevator next to you, mask down around their chin, or, in some cases, it’s defiantly not present at all.

Some of these people don’t comply with Gov. Charlie Baker’s mask as a political statement, with the question of whether to mask or not becoming yet another front in the country’s partisan divide. Some dismiss scientific evidence of the face coverings’ proven effectiveness. Others just don’t care.

The Boston Globe, Beth Teitell calls them “mask holes.” In a morning email newsletter, Greg Reibman of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber dubbed them “covidiots.”

As Teitell writes, the mask rebellion is an issue at restaurants, where workers come in close contact with customers and owners are hoping to get in as much business in case of a second wave of COVID-19 shutdowns shuttering their doors.

“I see grown-ups, with a kind of smirking defiance, walk maskless through our restaurant, or dangle their masks under their chin or below their noses, or not bother with them at all,” chef Jody Adams wrote in what Teitell says is an as-yet unpublished op-ed.

“We again have had a nasty visit from a ‘refuse-to-wear-a-mask’ person,” Judy Herrell, the owner of Herrell’s Ice Cream & Sweet Bakery in Northampton, wrote on Facebook on July 4.

“His partner wore a 1/2 mask below her nose,” the post continued. “She was asked not to eat in the store. He wasn’t served and asked to put on a mask or leave.‘’ A string of swears followed.

The nation’s top retail and restaurant chains are saying enough is enough, and that government needs to step in to enforce a nationwide mask mandate. This comes as states like Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California see rapidly increasing rates of COVID-19.

Massachusetts currently has a  low infection rate. But there are concerns that visitors or careless residents will cause that to spike again.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh warned against a second wave Tuesday, saying the US “is in the worst place it’s ever been in dealing with the pandemic.”

“The California governor yesterday had to shut down indoor businesses for the second time,” Walsh said during his coronavirus update. “It’s a tough blow to that state’s economy, but no doubt a necessary and important step. There’s even worse situations we’re seeing coming out of hospitals in Florida and Texas and Arizona and other places in the country, quite honestly.”

Elected officials are seeking to ensure measures are taken to prevent a resurgence of the virus in Massachusetts. A new bill filed by state Reps. Mindy Domb and Jon Santiago, (who is an emergency room physician), would make wearing face masks mandatory for most residents and ratchet up workplace safety standards at businesses.

The mask requirement would remain in effect through the end of the governor’s state of emergency declaration. Baker’s mask order, issued in May, has a non-compliance fine of $300 that has barely been enforced. Domb’s bill would give extra funds to local boards of health for enforcement purposes.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

In May, Worcester police were handing out masks to violators instead of citations, according to NBC10 Boston. The only significant leveling of fines seems to have occurred in Holbrook, also in May, where the board of health issued $3,300 in fines to people who violated the mask mandate, with the possibility of appeal. Since then, the fine issue seems to have disappeared from headlines.

Domb and Santiago’s bill would also require a two-week quarantine for most people traveling to Massachusetts from coronavirus hotspots, defined as a state with a continuous COVID-19 positivity rate of 5 percent or higher for seven days. Violators would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000, to be enforced by local boards of health.