‘Chronic disobedience’ over wearing a face mask outside could lead to $250 fine in Hoboken

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“Chronic disobedience” over wearing a face mask outside could lead to a $250 fine in Hoboken, pending approval from the city council later this month.

Last week, the council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would amend the city’s health and sanitation code regarding COVID-19 regulations.

The measure would allow a $250 fine to be imposed for anyone who does not adhere to city and state regulations that call for patrons and employees to wear a facial covering outside unless they are seated at a food establishment.

“It’s something that will hopefully be in the city’s tool kit to contain the virus. Right now, we have formed an ad hoc COVID special unit … various departments within the City of Hoboken to enforce the governor’s mandate in a way that is not heavy handed, that really emphasizes public education,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla told HCV at an unrelated presser today.

“So we’ve tasked out regulatory officers, our code enforcement officers, in a situation where you see someone not complying with the face mask mandate to give people a mask instead of a ticket.”

On July 8th, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued a directive requiring residents across the state to wear face masks outdoors, Executive Order 163, though he admitted at the time that enforcement would be difficult – if possible at all.

According to a copy of Hoboken’s ordinance, the police department, office of emergency management, code enforcement officers, the zoning department, construction official, and any other members of the COVID-19 task force would have the ability to issue fines.

While the mayor said sanctions were certainly in play if the ordinance is approved, which is expected since first reading passed unanimously (9-0), they would only be issued in the most dire circumstances.

“The mechanism of an ordinance which creates a local fine is intended to be utilized only in those extreme measures where you have chronic disobedience or disorderly conduct associated with that type of a situation,” he explained.

He added that the COVID-19 task force has largely been well received when telling residents to “mask up.”

The measure was largely overshadowed at last week’s council meeting by Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante receiving a new contract and the new Western Edge Redevelopment Plan being approved.

The first reading of the ordinance was also the last item on the agenda for the nearly three-hour meeting.