Virginia: Deputizing The Walmart Greeter

I’ve been mulling over Governor Ralph Northam’s mask mandate for businesses I keep coming back to the story of the Family Dollar employee who was killed after trying to enforce MI’s state-mandated mask policy:

Calvin Munerlyn, 43, died at a Flint hospital after he was shot in the head Friday, said Michigan State Police Lt. David Kaiser.

“From all indications, Mr. Munerlyn was simply doing his job in upholding the Governor’s Executive Order related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the safety of store employees and customers,” Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said in the statement.

Many of us have worked in retail and know of the almost universal mandate that if someone bolts for the store with unpaid product you do NOT pursue for legal and insurance reasons.

And that’s to enforce a law on the books.

Here, Northam is telling business owners and employees to enforce an Executive Order and refuse service to people who won’t wear masks – prohibiting them from entering stores or making them leave.

Or they risk the state penalizing them and putting their business at risk.

Enforcement comes down to business owners whose permit or licenses to operate could be on the line.

“The criminal code is not the place you want this enforced. There are tremendous equity issues with enforcing this that we’re cognitive of and there are very practical issues of our police and sheriffs had to enforce this. So we’ve taken that off the table,” said Clark Mercer, Northam’s Chief of Staff.

By putting the burden of enforcement on stores with the threat of losing their ability to lose business, Northam is putting shop owners and employees on the front-lines of enforcing rules and regulations while having zero real authority.

And that puts their lives at risk.

And which businesses and employees are going to have to deal with this the most? The very same low wage, essential business employees who’ve already been working through this entire pandemic.

I get it, Northam is trying to find a way to make this happen with the powers at his disposal, but clearly those limits are creating burdens that are unsustainable or just irresponsible.

If he needs permission of the General Assembly to give it teeth, then call a special session (though based on his Chief of Staff’s quote above it sounds like they don’t want to go that route). Or find other ways to educate and promote mask usage.

But don’t continue to saddle businesses already struggling with more risk.

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