BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Effective Wednesday, everyone who works in Barrington or visits a commercial or governmental building in the town must wear a cloth face mask — or run the risk of receiving a fine of up to $500.
An executive order signed by Town Manager James Cunha states people do not need to wear medical-grade masks; fabric coverings like scarves and bandanas will do. Masks are not required inside vehicles, private residences or while exercising.
“People are being compliant, but if someone wasn’t, then they would be issued a municipal citation, and they would go to municipal court, and a judge could fine them up to $500 for violating directives,” Cunha explained.
Cunha’s order is in line with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s statewide mandate, which takes effect Saturday. Raimondo’s order requires most employees to wear masks at work, with exceptions for those who can’t do their jobs with a mask on, such as call-center operators.
“I’m sure many of you are saying, ‘I’m not going to do that, it’s weird, it feels funny, I don’t know if it helps anyways.’ To you I am saying: you have to do this,” Raimondo said, adding that wearing a mask will be part of “the new normal” once the economy reopens.
Raimondo said she is leaving punishments and penalties for noncompliance up to individual municipalities and the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Barrington appears to be the first municipality in the state to not only make wearing cloth masks mandatory, but also to propose fines for violating the order.
Because the courts are currently closed due to the pandemic, Barrington Police Chief Dino DeCrescenzo said anyone who is issued a municipal citation would likely not appear in court until late June.
“The case would be looked at and then the fine would ultimately be determined by the judge from zero dollars up to 500 dollars, but that’s the last resort,” DeCrecenzo said.”It’s difficult for us. So, we’re not just looking to get a person and issue a fine without them fully understanding.”
Cunha urged people to not look for loopholes or ways around the mandate.
“It may be a little inconvenient, but we’re all inconvenienced right now,” Cunha said Wednesday. “We all need to work together.”
The executive order is in effect until May 8, but will be extended if necessary.
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