Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that “compliance units” led by Maryland State Police would be sent out to businesses before and during the Thanksgiving holiday to make sure business owners are following coronavirus restrictions.
“Additional troopers will be focused on this enforcement,” said Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley. “Our first goal is voluntary compliance.”
Shipley promised that the initiative “is not a heavy-handed kind of response” and would mostly be focused on educating business owners on rules such as capacity limits and physical distancing requirements.
Hogan recently announced a 10 p.m. curfew for all bars and restaurants across the state and tightened capacity limits at retail outlets, religious facilities, barbershops and salons.
The new capacity limits at businesses are capped at 50%.
“Businesses and individuals who blatantly violate the public health orders are endangering themselves, and friends and neighbors as well,” Hogan said.
Many local jurisdictions decided to tighten the rules even further, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. For example, Montgomery County health officials announced Tuesday that private indoor gatherings of more than 10 people would be prohibited and that masks would be required outdoors at all times.
“Our troopers will be working in support of local health officials and local law enforcement,” said Shipley.
The compliance units will be focused on areas that are popular with diners and drinkers, including Silver Spring, Bel Air and Baltimore City.
If a business owner refuses to comply with public health orders, Shipley said their business could be shut down for a period of time, or they could be hit with criminal charges.
For customers who refuse to follow the rules, the punishment could be swifter.
“There are situations where they could be charged with trespassing and be arrested immediately at that location,” said Shipley.
Concerned residents can report violations to state police at 833-979-2266 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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