State, county and city officials increasingly are ordering residents to wear masks and maintain social distance amid a rise in coronavirus cases across the country.
But those orders seldom include any means to enforce them or penalties for violators. Elected leaders, law enforcers and social science experts are divided on whether enforcement is needed to ensure compliance with public health measures.
“I think it’s symbolically important, if nothing else,” said Joel Johnson, professor of government at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “It’s far more common [though] to have a penalty attached but not have active enforcement, like jaywalking.”
South Dakota’s COVID-19 infection rates are among the highest in the nation, which has seen more than 11 million diagnosed infections and more than 250,000 deaths from the coronavirus. On Tuesday, the Sioux Falls City Council voted to demand mask-use inside businesses and city buildings.
But there’s no penalty for violating the mandate, which one dissenting councilman called a