Covid-19 ‘compliance units’ hit Maryland streets after governor says Americans have ‘no constitutional right’ to refuse face masks
Maryland has deployed police “compliance units” across the state to ensure adherence to its Covid-19 restrictions at bars, restaurants and anywhere else people might gather, ramping up enforcement just in time for Thanksgiving.
The “High Visibility Compliance Units,” announced by Republican Governor Larry Hogan earlier this week, hit the streets of Maryland on Wednesday, led by state troopers in coordination with local officials and law enforcement.
The units will “focus on educating the public about existing orders and protocols, preventing super-spreading events, and taking enforcement actions when necessary,” Hogan’s office said in a statement, adding that the patrols would “continue throughout the holiday season.”
In addition to bars and restaurants, the operation will focus on venues that host gatherings, including nightclubs and banquet halls.
Several high-traffic downtown areas across Maryland will see a beefed up police presence, including in Baltimore City, Silver Spring, Bethesda, Bel Air, Fells Point, Allegheny County, Towson and Salisbury – the latter two being college towns with younger populations on average. The units will monitor crowd sizes, mask-wearing and social distancing at indoor venues.
The new push to enforce the coronavirus regulations comes amid another wave of infections in the ongoing pandemic, prompting state and local leaders to enact similar policies across the US, including Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who said this week that police would be “stepping up efforts” to enforce a new “Covid-19 safety plan.”
Hogan has taken a particularly harsh stance toward rule-breakers, insisting residents have no right to refuse to wear a face mask during the health crisis, which he compared to “a constitutional right to drive drunk” or to “yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater.”
We’re talking about a quarter of a million people dying already – more than the Korean War, the Gulf War, and the Vietnam War added together. Which part don’t you understand? You wear the mask. There’s no constitutional right to walk around without a mask. We did it in 1918, I don’t know why we can’t do it now.
While the governor has sympathized with “growing frustration” over the restrictions, that did not prevent an outpouring of condemnation from netizens, who’ve slammed the new compliance units as “tyrannical,” some finding hints of Orwell in the enforcement initiative.
Maryland has recorded more than 188,000 coronavirus infections since the beginning of the outbreak, as well as some 4,500 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, ranking well below the worst-hit states. Nationwide, over 12.7 million cases have been tallied, along with nearly 262,000 fatalities, as infections continue to spike across large swathes of the country.
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