THE Mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser on Monday announced an order requiring residents of the nation’s capital to stay at home or potentially face criminal charges.
The threat of jail is alarming residents and civil libertarians who point out that at least five inmates tested positive for Covid-19 in the city’s 1,700-inmate jail near Capitol Hill.
Anything other than those specified activities, the order warns, could result in severe penalties. “Any individual who willfully violates the stay-at-home order may be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, subject to a fine not exceeding $5,000, imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both,” the release reads.
“Our message remains the same: stay home,” Bowser, a Democrat, said in a statement Monday. The stay-home order has exceptions for grocery shopping and work deemed essential. Outdoor recreation such as running is allowed, but cannot involve people outside of a household.
Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia, said “we would be deeply concerned” if anyone actually was arrested for violating the order.
“When we saw this order, we thought, ‘You want to send them where?’” Hopkins said. “People being arrested for that causes all sorts of problems that are antithetical to the goals of lessening the virus.”
The directive came just hours after neighbouring Maryland and Virginia each unveiled similar orders on Monday.