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Tuesday, July 14, 2020
State sets penalty for not wearing masks on individuals and businesses
The state Department of health on Thursday issued an emergency rule amending public health law that allows for civil penalties on individuals and business owners that fail to comply with requirements that include wearing masks in public. The emergency rule, effective July 9, addresses the enforcement of the state’s “social distancing” measures outlined in Executive Order 202.14 and subsequent orders related to face coverings.
The regulation renames Part 66 of state public health law as “Immunizations and Communicable Diseases” and codifies existing obligations imposed by several of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive orders. The amendment is intended to enforce social distancing measures to control the spread of communicable disease, according to the text of the 20-page rule.
The health department, in the rule, said that codification would facilitate increased awareness and enforcement. The rule, Section 66-3.2, imposes an explicit, enforceable requirement on all building owners and operators.
The rule states that “Business operators and building owners, and those authorized on their behalf shall deny admittance to any person who fails to comply with this section [requiring face-coverings] and shall require or compel such person’s removal.”
The rule requires that the regulation be applied in a manner consistent with the federal American with Disabilities Act, New York State or New York City Human Rights Law, and “any other applicable provision of law.” The rule says that any individual violating any provision of the rule is subject to civil penalty of up to $1,000 per violation. When businesses are subject to the statue’s civil penalties, they could be fined up to $2,000 per day.
The emergency rule requires face coverings to be worn by all persons older than 2 years old and able to medically tolerate a face-covering in public places when social distancing cannot or is not maintained, and on for-hire public or private transportation. Employees in workplaces are required to wearing face coverings when in contact with customers and members of the public, or when unable to maintain social distancing. Businesses are required to provide, at their own expense, face coverings for their employees.
Other provisions of the rule cover provisions of existing executive orders such as limits on gatherings and work force sizes, but notes that executive orders, including related reopening plan provisions, would supersede any conflicts with the public health rule.
State and local government are authorized to enforce civil and criminal penalties related to the violation of these regulations, according to the rule. A number of business organizations, including the Business Council of New York State, have expressed opposition to the rule’s face covering enforcement provisions.
The council has also raised additional concerns such as definition of “essential business” and exemptions for non-essential businesses and those in the essential business supply chain that serve essential businesses. The council said some of the rules are unclear or inconsistent with executive order.
The emergency rules will be effective during the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency, the health department said. The emergency rule is effective for up to 90 days, during which time the agency is supposed to file a formal rulemaking proposal. Emergency rules can be extended in 60-day increments.