Individuals and businesses violating COVID-19 restrictions in Talbot County may face additional civil fines up to $1,000 per violation.
The Talbot County Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to adopt an emergency resolution that sets civil fines for violations of the governor’s executive orders on COVID-19.
The discussion Tuesday night and at a previous meeting focused on concerns about businesses, particularly a few restaurants with bar areas, that have not been requiring customers to comply with Gov. Hogan’s orders.
In an executive order allowing certain businesses and facilities to open with 50% indoor capacity, restaurants are only allowed to serve customers who are seated.
While the governor’s executive orders allow for businesses and individuals to be charged with a misdemeanor offense and face a fine up a year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, Talbot officials wanted the ability to impose civil, rather than criminal, penalties.
The civil fines may be imposed on businesses that violate the governor’s directives on how to safely open for the public, as well as individuals who fail to follow the order requiring facial coverings.
“These measures take effect immediately,” Council President Corey Pack said in a statement. “We are working to keep everyone as safe as possible and are continuing to closely follow the governor’s Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery.”
The draft of the emergency resolution is below:Emergency Resolution – COVID Enforcement - as approved on 7-28-20
The resolution refers to two orders issued by Gov. Larry Hogan.
Order 20-04-15-01 requires face coverings on public transportation and in retail and food service establishments. The order also requires stores to sanitize carts and baskets and designate at least 6-foot spacing between customers waiting in line.Masks-and-Physical-Distancing-4.15.20
Order 20-06-10-01 largely allows various businesses and facilities to open up at 50% capacity indoors and allowed restaurants to serve food and drinks indoors to customers seated at tables, but not at bar/counter areas.Gatherings-NINTH-AMENDED-June-10
Dr. Fredia Wadley, the county’s health officer, also had recommended that the council consider limiting the number of people allowed at both indoor and outdoor gatherings, and empowering the county liquor board to suspend the liquor license of violators.
As health officer, Wadley has the authority from the state health secretary to suspend the food service license of any establishment that is operating in an unsafe manner.
The council plans to discuss restrictions on outdoor gatherings during its Aug. 11 meeting.
“When you are talking about a virus like COVID-19, there is no safe number,” Wadley told the council. “It’s where do you want to set the number?”
During Tuesday night’s meeting, Wadley also outlined the recent COVID-19 trends in Talbot County and the state.
“In Talbot County, we had the first good day for a long time and I never thought I’d say six new cases is a good day, but it’s better than 10 which is what we’ve been having,” she said.
The county’s 7-day average for new daily cases had hit a peak of 10 on July 20 and 21 before dropping back to the single digits.
From the county’s first confirmed COVID-19 case on March 16 through July 10, the 7-day average had not gone higher than three.