(UPDATE 5/18/2020: Holzapfel, McGuckin & Catalano Withdrawing Bill as Lockdowns Ease)
In response to the continuation of public gatherings in various parts of the state in violation of an executive order during the COVID-19 public health crisis and State of Emergency, Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano (all R-10) will introduce legislation to create significant monetary penalties for those who host gatherings in violation of the “Emergency Health Powers Act.” Governor Murphy has ordered all New Jerseyans to stay home to slow the transmission and spread of the coronavirus, a highly infectious disease.
After repeated reports of large social gatherings held in the State, Sen. Holzapfel and Asm. McGuckin & Catalano will introduce legislation that would crack down on those who violate the Emergency Health Powers Act. (©iStock)
“There have been a number of large public gatherings since the Governor has issued the stay at home order, and we feel violators should face significant consequences for failure to comply with a directive that’s necessary to save lives,” stated Senator Holzapfel. “During this public health crisis, the executive order mandating social distancing should not be taken lightly. Mass gatherings during this pandemic put an unnecessary strain on an already fragile healthcare system, create risk for responding law enforcement officers, and threaten the lives of participants.”
The bill would establish a monetary penalty of $10,000 to $15,000 for any person who willfully or knowingly hosts gatherings in violation of any provision of the “Emergency Health Powers Act.” Gatherings of all kinds including weddings, parties, and social events have been prohibited by the Governor since March 21 when he issued an executive order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“There must be a stronger penalty for violating the social distancing orders during this outbreak,” said Assemblyman McGuckin. “The strong financial penalties that would be imposed by our legislation should discourage people from hosting gatherings in violation of the prohibition during this crisis.”
According to the legislation, the host of any indoor or outdoor social gathering that exceeds the number permitted to gather will be penalized when an order intended is to prevent the transmission or spread of an infectious disease. The penalty would be sued for and collected by the Commissioner of Health, along with all costs associated with the commissioner’s enforcement action.
“To combat the spread of this disease, we must adhere to the Governor’s orders to stay at home and distance ourselves from our friends and family,” added Assemblyman Catalano. “We know that socially distancing is hard, but it’s critically necessary to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus in a way that would overwhelm our hospitals and result in the unnecessary loss of life. We hope that a substantial fine will make individuals think twice if they are considering to host a party or have friends over.”
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