Lawyers weighing in on new Albemarle Co. and Charlottesville mask ordinances

Masks ordinances going into effect soon

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -The new mask ordinances going into effect Saturday, August 1 in both the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County are raising concerns among some.

In Charlottesville people caught without a mask could soon face a $250 fine, but in Albemarle County, violators could be slapped with a $2,500 fine or up to a year in jail.

“There are people out there that would have a problem paying, especially a $2,500 fine. The question is, do we really want to be doing that? And is there a better way to handle this?‘” Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead said.

City and county officials say the ordinances are in place to protect people and ensure compliance, but some say the penalties, especially in the county, are too high.

“A year in jail, I think that is so egregious to have someone going to jail for a year, c’mon folks, and again, that costs the tax payers a lot of money,” Whitehead said.

Albemarle County Supervisor Ann Mallek says there must be a carrot and stick approach.

“Unfortunately, we have to legislate this but the last seven months has taught us that we have to have rules, otherwise we will continue in this downward spiral, which we have now,” she said.

The new ordinances may hit people experiencing homelessness and some of the more vulnerable communities particularly hard, but there are plans to mitigate any disparities.

“There have been thousands of masks distributed all across the county in the last couple of weeks, and I know that will continue as well, and particular focus on the vulnerable homeless populations, for sure,” Mallek said.

Both ordinances have several exemptions, including institutions of higher learning, fitness and other exercise facilities, and religious institutions.

“Jim Ryan, the president of the university says he’s going to follow the same protocol, so they’re going to impose the same requirements at the university as they do in the county, so that problem is solved. I am concerned about the notion that it’s OK to have religious entities to have more than 250 people,” attorney Jeff Fogel said.

Mallek says supervisors asked similar questions about the exemptions, but the list is rooted in data.

“If they’re not having a problem right now, that is why they were allowed to continue in this list,” she said.

The city and county provide exemptions for children 10 and under and for anyone for whom wearing a face covering provides a health risk, but you will need to provide proof from a healthcare provider.

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