In a special town council meeting Tuesday (June 29), councilors unanimously passed an amendment to the existing emergency order surrounding the coronavirus pandemic requiring all those in the town limits on public property to wear a mask in public or face a petty misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $500. The order took effect immediately.
"We really don't want to become confrontational," said Mayor Dan Barrone. "We want people to be aware that we are going to take this as seriously as we can."
What does it mean
The new language in the order calls for everyone over the age of 4 to wear a mask in public. The masks will be mandatory for anyone not exercising, eating or drinking in a public place.
What does the order do
Every member of the public is required to wear a face covering.
The council passed the new amendment in the hopes of preventing the possible spread of the novel coronavirus.
Citizens will be required to wear a mask while walking, shopping, talking and sitting in public.
You do not have to wear a mask when:
Driving a car.
According to town manager Rick Bellis, Taos Police will be patrolling and handing out masks to those who do not have one.
Those found in violation of the mask order could face a petty misdemeanor charge and fine. For a petty misdemeanor in the town of Taos, violators could face a $500 fine or up to 90 days in jail.
"None of this does any good unless we have someone physically walking around in the field," Bellis said.
The order amendment comes as the number of COVID-19 cases rose to 43 in Taos County. Surrounding states - especially Texas and Arizona - have been witnessing a surge of the virus. New Mexico numbers have surged over 12,000 cases as businesses open up across the state.
Tourists and visitors will be alerted to the town's mask order and the town is creating an ad campaign to get the word out. From signs to website changes, officials at the town will be working to remind the public of the mandate.
During the meeting the town gave few exceptions for members of the public to not wear a mask. Those out in public are required to have face coverings at all times.
The town of Taos put forth their efforts of getting masks into the community by handing them out to businesses owners for their employees. The town has had two separate pop-up events where 5,000 masks were handed to those who showed up.
"If you don't want to wear a mask then don't come downtown where you will be interacting with others," Bellis said.
Hundreds of comments poured in on a Taos News Facebook post about the order with many expressing their support for the masks and the council.
"Thank you for the decisive, good leadership during this unprecedented time," said Facebook user Mary Hoffman.
Despite the positive posts, a number of comments were posted in opposition to the council's decision.
"Stop taking the rights away from the American people," Linda Schneck posted. "This is not keeping anyone safe.'
Other actions: The council also passed Stage 3 drought restriction in the town of Taos to adhere to the current lack of summer precipitation.
Stage 3 restrictions prohibit watering landscape between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Stage 3 restrictions also state that lawns can only be watered once per week, with even addresses watering on Tuesday and odd addresses on Wednesday.
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