FROSTBURG — After several residents expressed concern over proper mask usage during Thursday’s Frostburg City Council meeting, officials agreed to send a letter of support for Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order regarding masks and to have fliers distributed to city businesses.
The mandate from Hogan states that people knowingly and willingly violating the order, if convicted, could be subject to imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding $5,000, or both.
Four citizens commented through various means, voice recordings, phone calls and email, all stating their support for more and enforced face mask usage throughout the community.
“As we know, this virus effects every gender, every race, every age and stops for no one. Its job as a virus is to infect and spread to as many people as it can,” said William Coburn, who added that he has severe asthma and takes extra precautions when he goes out. “The excuse of individuals saying that they cannot breathe with a mask on is a lousy excuse and is inaccurate.”
Coburn said he felt compelled to raise his concerns after going to a local restaurant to pick up food only to find the wait staff wearing masks improperly and no signage on the front door about masks being required, a violation of the order.
“I’ve played by the rules, sequestering myself since February,” said Patricia Henley, who said she is among the high-risk for being infected by the virus. “I leave my house to walk my dog or go to the pharmacy. My groceries are delivered. I’m missing friends, and I had every hope that by now we would be looking at the virus in the rear view mirror, but as you know, it’s a storm right in from of us.”
Frostburg has been mostly spared so far, she said, but she worried what would happen come fall when Frostburg State University is back in session if masks are not mandated and enforced in the city, as college students can have a tendency to break the rules and rationalize their behavior.
However, she did not want to put the blame on students if infections go up.
“We need new habits to cope with health issues,” she said. “We cut out smoking indoors. We require the use of seat belts. This is no different.”
Paul Maxey, who runs an internet-based company, said he supported reaffirming and enforcing the governor’s executive order because it would help curb a potential second spike in cases and help get life back to normal sooner, not to mention bring people’s confidence in supporting local businesses if they feel safe in them.
Cassie Conklin said she would like to see the city council pass a resolution on the matter.
“One of the primary things that has been impressed upon us is to enforce by educating people — if we see a violation, if somebody calls us for a violation, we’re going to respond and we’re going to address it,” said Frostburg Chief of Police Nick Costello. “If it’s not particularly egregious, or it’s something maybe the person claims they didn’t know, that would be a situation where the police would say, ‘Hey, you need to wear a mask’ or you need to leave.’”
Frostburg officers will hand the fliers out at businesses while they’re on patrol.
“We wanted the business owners to notify customers that came in to put a mask on or leave. We had hoped that would work as an enforcement mechanism, and in many respects it has,” he said. “Obviously, if the businesses themselves aren’t complying, that’s a problem.
“I think what I would urge people primarily to know is there are potential criminal penalties for violating the governor’s orders.”
Commissioner of Finance Donny Carter and Commissioner of Public Safety Kevin Grove both said they support affirming the governor’s order, but had concerns with cracking down too hard on local businesses not perfectly in compliance.
An example was not wanting to potentially put employees in a bad spot enforcing mask wearing and alienating customers.
“Please, please, do your best to comply,” said Carter. “It’s tough right now as a business owner.”
“What we’re doing is — publicly saying, ‘This is what the law is, this is what the governor’s mandate is, and this is what we will enforce in our city and outline what the governor’s mandate consists of,’” said Nina Forsythe, commissioner of water, parks and recreation. “Letting business owners know they need to have a sign out front.”
Follow staff writer Brandon Glass on Twitter @Bglass13.