Officials in the Texas city of Laredo on the US-Mexico border are imposing stiff penalties on people going out without covering their faces in a desperate bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Residents will now be required to wear something that covers their nose and mouth when they’re out in public. If they don’t, they face a fine of up to $1,000.
Effective Thursday, everyone over age of five in Laredo will have to wear a homemade mask, scarf or bandanna when entering a building open to the public, when pumping gas, or when using public transportation, taxis or rideshares.
Under newly adopted rules, every resident of Loredo, Texas, over age 5 will have to wear a homemade mask, scarf or bandanna when entering a building, pumping gas, or using public transportation. Pictured: a woman in a mask rides a bus in Loredo on March 21
People who are caught outside in Loredo without a face covering will be fined $1,000
Men wait outside of a restaurant for their order since a new rule states that no one can eat inside restaurants in Laredo
The new rule adopted by the Laredo City Council does not apply to people riding in their own vehicles or if they are outside for exercise.
Residents are being encouraged to use homemade masks and leave scarce medical masks for health professionals fighting on the frontline of the pandemic.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 73 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city of 260,600 and five fatalities.
Beside imposing fines, city officials this week put into place a daily curfew, which requires residents to stay indoors between 10pm and 5am, except for essential trips and necessities.
People who have to work during those hours will be exempt but will have to show proof.
Those ought breaking the curfew will be arrested on a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to $1,000 fine.
Some critics have expressed concern that amid the economic downturn and soaring unemployment numbers caused by the coronavirus outbreak, some residents will be unable to afford paying the fines imposed by the city.
‘I’d rather bury them in debt than bury them in a coffin,’ Councilman George Altgelt pithily remarked to Laredo Morning Times.
The directive ordering people to cover their mouths and noses runs counter to the World Health Organization’s official position on the matter.
On Wednesday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said they are not advising the general public to wear surgical masks, saying they should be reserved only for healthcare workers, sick patients and those caring for them.
‘We’re continuing to study the evidence about the use of masks. WHO’s priority is that frontline health workers are able to access essential personal protective equipment, including medical masks and respirators,’ Tedros said.
It’s been reported in recent days that President Donald Trump could soon issue new recommendations on wearing face coverings, although when addressing the issue on Thursday he stopped short of suggesting that his administration would require everyone to cover their mouths and noses in public.
‘I don’t think they’ll be mandatory because some people don’t want to do that,’ he said during his daily coronavirus briefing.
It is unclear how effective surgical masks are at stopping the spread of the virus, and in addition there is a concern among health experts that having Americans wear face coverings could lull them into a false sense of security and lead them to become more lax about social distancing.