CHARLES COUNTY, Md. — The Charles County Commissioners Board held a special meeting on Sep.10, 2021, to discuss how they can effectively slow the spread of COVID-19 by creating mask mandates, increased testing and increased vaccination. As a result, the board declared a local state of emergency, which enforces a mask mandate that, if not followed, could cause six months of imprisonment.

The board is taking drastic measures because of the alarming spike in COVID-19 cases over the past month and, in particular, the past 24 hours.

“The hospitalizations in August where we had one of our top 10 hospitalization cases that is high, and right now, the number of cases in September was 27 total,” Dr. Dianna Abney, Health Officer for Charles County Department of Health, said. “If you took that three more times, it would be over 90, so if we continue at the rate we are going, we will be worse than August.”

Currently, the hospitals in Charles county are already having issues serving the people that they have now. If they were to get more people coming in, they could not take care of everyone.

“We are moving patients around to make sure we can give everyone at the hospital the best possible care,” William Grimes, Vice President of Ancillary Services and Incident Commander, said. “This is not unusual at all. But, what is unusual is that we are transferring patients that normally we could care for. “

Additionally, the board would not be considering this mask mandate if most people in the county were vaccinated. As Mr. Grimes would say, “this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated”. As a result, the board is pushing for more physicians, doctors and public figures to speak more about their vaccination status.

However, they are not convinced that this will be enough. By the end of the meeting, the board voted unanimously to establish a local state of emergency again, which includes a mask mandate. The mask does and has always included two degrees of infringement.

“This is not a Charles County law. This is a state law. We do not have the ability to create new provisions in the state of Maryland’s criminal code. We are abiding by what is already in existence,” Reuben Collins, Commissioner Board President, said.

The two degrees of infringement hinge on whether it was intentional, which is totally up to the discretion of the sheriff and judge of the case. However, if the infringement is unintentional, the person will still be at risk of facing six months of imprisonment or $1,000 fine. If the infringement is intentional, a person could possibly face a year of imprisonment or $5,000 fine.

As noted above, this is not a new rule. The board made it clear they do not have the power to create new provisions like that. These are the same rules, but they will enforce certain vocabulary within the rules more than before.

Although they declared a local state of emergency, this is only for a 30-day evaluation period. If things were to settle down and the mask mandate seemed unnecessary, it was very plausible for them to lift the local state of emergency. Even if the mandate stays in place, the sheriff of the area has to enforce it or else it means nothing.

For many people who are worried about their freedom being taken, the board’s intentions are not to take away rather than to re-enforce people wearing masks or getting vaccinated.