(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) As Covid-19 cases continue to rise in St. Joseph, it’s forced the hand of the city's health department to rethink their enforcement arrangements.
Debra Bradley, director of the St. Joseph Health Department said the time has come for more accountability. Her department has imposed tougher penalties for those who aren’t following the city's mask ordinance.
Under the modified arrangement, if a health inspector sees a business not complying with the city’s mask ordinance they can issue a ticket of up to $500 to either the manager, or owner of that business. The rate would be determined by a judge in municipal court.
It’s not just about stricter punishment. The health department also said it plans to check up on businesses more often.
"We are starting to do some random checks to see if the mask ordinance is being enforced," Bradley said.
The health department also wants the public to know the toughened approach only applies to face coverings. Bradley said she's receiving many complaints detailing a lack of social distancing.
"In the order, that is not a mandate," she said. "We can only write the ticket on the mandate which is the face covering."
One local restaurant likely won’t have a problem under the tougher penalties. Owners of the LaMesa Mexican Restaurant shared that their customers have done well adjusting to the ordinance
"95% of the customers, come in with a face mask." David Torres, restaurant owner said. "The other 5% if they don’t have it, we request it and they turn back running to the car,"
Torres said it’s important now more than ever for businesses and their customers to protect each other and follow the proper guidelines.
"We really think that’s the only way that we can be living safe," he said. "It’s no other way."
The Health Department is authorized to issue tickets to any business that is not in compliance with the mask order.