Miami-Dade to issue $100 fines for people not wearing masks in public

Miami-Dade County plans to start aggressively enforcing rules designed to combat the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

The county's commission unanimously approved an emergency order on Thursday that gives all code and fire inspectors authority to issue tickets of up to $100 for individuals and $500 for businesses not complying with guidelines to wear masks and practice social distancing. Police officers have already had this enforcement power.

"We're going to put a heck of a lot of people out there," Mayor Carlos Gimenez told commissioners during a zoom meeting. "Our people are going to go everywhere."

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Gimenez noted that because people, and especially younger people, have not been following the "new normal" guidelines, the county needed another enforcement tool. 

In Miami-Dade County, which is Florida's most populous and the current epicenter of the outbreak, there were more than 3,100 new coronavirus cases reported on Thursday. 

Statewide, there were 13,965 new coronavirus cases and 156 deaths reported on Thursday.

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The order took place immediately upon approval. Gimenez said it's time for repercussions for people who choose to disobey the rules, the Miami Herald reported.

"This is an all-hands-on-deck approach. We need to have not just police officers, but all inspectors — our code inspectors, our fire inspectors — on deck to enforce the rules we know people are not complying with," Gimenez said.

Violators who receive the civil fines can avoid financial hardship by serving community service hours through the county's Diversion Program. 

The goal of the ordinance is to "increase the manpower desperately needed to follow up on these executive orders," so that people listen without having to be arrested, said Commissioner Sally Heyman.