xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Our View: Without enforcement, it’s unrealistic to expect all to follow executive order on wearing masks l COMMENTARY

How many motorists would remain at the speed limit knowing they had no chance of getting a ticket even if they far exceeded the posted speed? The answer is somewhere between significantly more than zero and far too many. Without enforcement, a percentage of people simply won’t abide by rules or laws.

Why, then, is anyone surprised to find customers and even employees inside businesses not wearing masks — even with COVID-19 cases spiking across the country, even with the medical consensus that facial coverings mitigate the spread, even with an executive order requiring them to be worn by all customers and workers in retail establishments — given that Carroll County is not enforcing their use?

Advertisement

County Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, spoke for many during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting when he said: “I am, frankly, tired of walking in stores and seeing people without masks. ... We should be out of this part of the pandemic by now and we’re not because people don’t do what they need to do.”

True. But people have a tendency to ignore rules or laws if there is no penalty for not following them and no one in Carroll County, apparently, has any reason to fear legal or financial consequences for not doing “what they need to do.”

Advertisement

Col. Larry Suther told us last week that the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office encourages mask wearing, but hadn’t issued any citations for failure to do so. A Maryland State Police spokesman said essentially the same thing.

Andrea Hanley, a spokesperson with the Bureau of Environmental Health at the Carroll County Health Department, told us that failure to mask up is not an issue for the police. “They are not the ones getting complaints about masks. We’re the ones doing the investigations,” she said. “If we have a problem during the investigation, we will follow up with the police, and that doesn’t happen very often.”

Police have gotten involved with businesses failing to comply with the executive order. Customers are generally dealt with by store managers, or not at all. Regardless, Hanley told us last week that she wasn’t aware of any instance in which an individual or business had been fined or charged.

That’s unlikely to change. While the county commissioners generally expressed interest in promoting mask wearing Thursday,there was no eagerness to police it.

Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, said he believes businesses should set their own mask policies. “This is America. We have freedoms and liberties,” he said.

We do. With limits, often designed to protect others.

Bouchat said he didn’t think mask wearing saves the lives of those in nursing homes. We won’t argue that point. Tragically, there have been 118 coronavirus-related deaths at congregate living facilities in Carroll County.

But “community” cases have far outpaced elder care facility cases over the past 10 days in Carroll County. And, nationally, younger people are contracting the virus at a far higher rate since businesses began reopening.

The efficacy of wearing masks is no longer in debate. One study, published online in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed health care journal, examined the number of daily COVID-19 cases by county in 15 states and Washington, D.C. between March 31 and May 22, and how the number of cases relate to mandated mask wearing policies. In places where masks were required in public, the daily number of cases declined by 0.9% in the first five days and then by 2% after 21+ days. Between 230,000 and 450,000 cases were possibly averted during that time frame due to these mandates, estimates in the study suggest.

Would an anecdote be more persuasive than science? Remember the two hair stylists in Missouri who had close contact with 140 clients while sick with COVID-19? It made national news. Everyone wore a mask and none of the clients tested positive.

“The majority of people, they want to do what’s right,” Hanley told us.

That is true. But there’s a minority of people, a potentially dangerous minority, that needs more than just encouragement to do what’s right.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement