The city of Sanford has enacted an emergency ordinance that requires mask-wearing in public places and fines violators $100 as part of a city effort to stem virus outbreaks within York County and quell opposition to coronavirus safeguards.
The Sanford City Council voted 7-0 to enact the ordinance during an online, emergency meeting on Thursday night. Councilors said the emergency ordinance was not a political statement, but instead a safeguard of the community’s health as it battles coronavirus outbreaks.
The emergency ordinance, which goes into effect immediately and lasts for 91 days but can be renewed, requires all residents to wear face masks in all retail stores in Sanford as was as in public settings where social distancing is difficult.
Besides the $100 civil penalty, the emergency ordinance grants the city the right to close businesses in Sanford or revoke licenses it has issued to businesses in response to violations, according to a copy of the ordinance the council reviewed on Thursday.
The council vote was a response to Sanford’s becoming a crossroads for the virus. Outbreaks have occurred at the city’s fire department and at several social clubs. An outbreak connected to a Millinocket-area wedding was officiated by Todd Bell, pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford, and was traced to York County Jail in Alfred, which has an employee who attended the wedding.
Public health officials haven’t confirmed a link between an outbreak at Calvary Baptist Church — where at least 10 people connected to the church are infected — and the wedding that Bell officiated.
The outbreaks moved Sanford Mayor Tom Cote to write an open letter to the community on Tuesday telling opponents of coronavirus precautions — masks and social distancing — to stop fighting the safeguards. Mask and social distancing opponents include Bell — who encouraged members of his church to put their faith in “God, not government” — and he has since received death threats. Until the passage of the ordinance, masks were not required at the church’s school, Sanford Christian Academy.
Councilors said they would consider renewing the ordinance or dropping it if the city’s coronavirus risk rating goes from its present yellow alert to green. A community that has fewer than one daily new case per 100,000 is green. One to nine is yellow; between 10 and 24 is orange; and 25 and above puts communities in the red according to an online risk assessment system devised to help further understanding of virus penetrations around the country,