MORGANTOWN — Wednesday marked the first day of enforcement for Morgantown’s emergency ordinance making refusal to wear a mask indoors in public spaces a misdemeanor.
Interim Police Chief Eric Powell arrived for work braced for an influx of calls. Fortunately, it didn’t happen.
As of 5 p.m. there had been no requests for officers over mask issues and no citations issued.
“Up to this point there have been none,” Powell said.
“A little bit, yeah,” he said. “Initially, I felt it was a possibility that we might experience an influx of calls … We were prepared to the extent that we could have been, but right now everything seems to be going pretty decently.”
The emergency ordinance passed by city council and enacted by Interim City Manager Emily Muzzarelli mandates that anyone over the age of nine must wear a mask or face shield while in a public building and not engaged in eating or drinking.
Refusal to do so will be a misdemeanor punishable by fines ranging from $25-$500.
Powell said he envisions enforcement being largely complaint driven.
“I think the main response will be via direct complaint. However, our officers are out and about,” Powell said. “There’s not going to be any directed checks of businesses or anything like that. If they were to encounter someone violating the ordinance, they would obviously take some kind of action.”
That action, at least initially, will be focused on education.
“We’re going to let people know what’s going on and explain the reasons behind it. We’ll give them an opportunity to comply with the ordinance and see where it goes from there,” Powell said.
“Refusal from that point, obviously, is grounds to issue citations. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. I’m hopeful we don’t have write too many of them.”
In addition to the mask penalties, the emergency ordinance also includes a tiered process for dealing with businesses deemed outbreak sites — defined as a location from which three or more cases of COVID-19 can be traced.