Q&A – Are Fines Effective For Enforcing Mask Mandates?

Today’s entry: Why is it when certain people push back on masks or business restrictions, we’re idiots who need to be fined and arrested?

Bottom Line: This note is in response to South Florida officials who’ve continued to call out Governor DeSantis for the inability to impose fines for mask violations for individuals and businesses. It’s far from the first time we’ve heard from local officials who differ with DeSantis’s view of the role of local government in enforcement. Starting with the governor’s September 25th order preventing local governments from issuing fines to individuals who violate mask mandates, we’ve regularly heard criticisms from local politicians who commonly differ with DeSantis in general. The criticisms have amped up over the past week as DeSantis issued a new order last Wednesday, against the backdrop of Spring Break, canceling any fines issued against individuals and businesses due to pandemic-related violations dating back to March of last year. This has made local officials nervous. In explaining his decision DeSantis called actions taken by local governments unprecedented, stating most of those restrictions have not been effective. He said, "That's just the reality. The numbers are in on that".

Do you generally adhere to whatever laws to out fear of enforcement against you or because you think it’s the right thing to do? Last October the most comprehensive study on mask mandates and fines to-date was conducted. It took place in England which imposed the most extensive fines of any country or community in the world. Penalties for violations ranged from 100 to 10,000 pounds. Among a myriad of findings in the study, researchers said, "these strategies can backfire and actually reduce compliance, particularly if the fines are perceived as unfair". Incidentally, in their findings, the United States was the third most likely country to respond this way. "Research carried out over the course of the current pandemic has shown that people are more likely to voluntarily follow the rules when their perceived risk of catching the virus is high and when they believe that compliance is effective in avoiding Covid-19". So yeah, DeSantis is right and the local officials who want to impose fines are shown to likely be off base.

Ironically efforts of local officials to impose their mandates could actually lead to greater non-compliance as many are inclined to rebel against what they perceive to be an injustice. So, what should they be doing? According to the study, "Fines for failing to follow the rules may bring some people into line for fear of being found out. But to really get everyone involved in preventing coronavirus by washing hands, physically distancing, and wearing masks, the government needs to communicate better and try to restore trust".

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.


Parler & Twitter:@brianmuddradio

Photo by: Getty Images

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