‘what we are talking about right now is the health of our citizens’

Rockland makes face-coverings mandatory in Downtown Zone

Mon, 07/06/2020 - 8:45pm

ROCKLAND – Following two amendments to a proposed ordinance requiring face coverings in public places, Rockland City Council voted unanimously, July 6, to require all pedestrians, visitors, guests, and employees of the Downtown Zone to wear face coverings while outside in that Zone.

This ordinance takes effect immediately.

Similar ordinances enacted in Rockland already require masks to be worn inside buildings accessed by the public, though not in back rooms and private offices within those buildings.

“Our obligation is to protect our residents,” said Councilor Valli Geiger.

Though the City wants to take an educational approach to getting the public on board with the idea, if requests for compliance by police, or the offering of face masks from Rockland’s stockpile don’t suffice, a $1,000 fine may follow.

“I love the idea of handing somebody like [parking enforcement officer] Troy (Peasley), or every officer, a box of masks and saying ‘Please Sir, put on a mask or I have to give you a citation. Your choice. Or you don’t have to be Downtown,” said Geiger.

When Councilor Ben Dorr expressed hesitation about the requirement potentially appearing politicized, Geiger said she didn’t care.

“It’s pretty clear, the science is very clear,” she said. “Public health officials are very clear. Every governor, even from the most red state, is now backpedaling and putting in orders for required face masks, re-closing states because of this. We are in real trouble. We are in a situation where we have lost control. I think the clearer the directions for people, the better.”

Going into the July 6 Agenda-Setting meeting of Council, members were looking at a proposed outdoors ordinance for the entire city, which then led to discussions of requiring masks while alone on City sidewalks and while in vehicles.

Councilor Ben Dorr mentioned his recent activity of longboarding in the high school parking lot by himself. Why should he have to wear a covering if no one else was around? Councilor Nate Davis spoke of walking and jogging on sidewalks and always carrying a covering for when he’s about to approach someone in passing.

With their examples, Geiger admitted that Rockland’s initial proposed city-wide outside coverings requirement was quite stringent, and in fact, she told Council that she’d originally just wanted to enforce the alleged non-compliance of certain Downtown businesses that were contracted to use public parks and access-ways.

Councilor Ed Glaser, however, maintained that the revised Downtown mask requirement doesn’t go nearly far enough.

For him, a recent walk through Harbor Park was disconcerting due to how few people were wearing masks. Council members reminded him that Maine’s current executive order only requires outside face coverings when social distancing of 6 feet is not feasible.

He told Council of the experience, in which he wore a covering and turned his head to avoid breathing the air of the other pedestrians.

“Even though it appeared that they weren’t going to be close, when it comes right down to it, they passed right by me,” he said. “I think it’s incumbent on all of us to wear a mask all of the time. I mean, maybe not when you are in your car, and maybe not when you are on the Bog Road – because the police aren’t going to be there. But there is no doubt that what we are talking about right now is the health of our citizens.”

According to Glaser, educational signs now appear in Camden’s Downtown regarding the wearing of mask coverings. As it happens, similar signs are already being designed for Rockland, thanks to a State of Maine COVID-19 Awareness Campaign grant.

The ordinance is better than the original, said Glaser.

“I wish it went further,” he said. “But I think it’s a good start.”

 

Reach Sarah Thompson at news@penbaypilot.com