Mayor Muriel Bowser ain’t playing with D.C. residents who choose to go out for non-essential reasons. She said they will face 90 days in jail and could be slapped with a fine up to $5,000.
“Our message remains the same: stay home,” Bowser said in a statement she released Monday. With the exception of grocery shopping, essential work and/or travel, to receive medical care or to engage in outdoor exercise, such as walking or running with people inside their household, Bowser has ordered people need to stay home.
The city’s Metropolitan Police Department did not offer details on how the order with be enforced, or whether residents would be warned first if caught outside for a non-essential reason
Some say Bowser’s order goes too far. Washington, D.C. has just over 400 COVID-19 cases out of the country’s 160,000, according to The New York Post. Bowser’s order is similar to orders governors released in Maryland and Virginia, also on Monday.
“This is insane. Criminal penalties?” tweeted Mercedes Schlapp, who formerly worked as President Trump’s director of strategic communications and who currently is one of his campaign advisers.
This is insane. Criminal penalties? DC. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) creates order that says Washingtonians must stay at home unless they have essential business. The new order carries criminal penalties and fines of up to $5,000.
— Mercedes Schlapp (@mercedesschlapp) March 30, 2020
Monica Hopkins, who heads up the D.C. ACLU, reportedly told The New York Post that the organization would be “deeply concerned” if anyone were to be arrested for violating the D.C. 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.”
“What we would hope for is voluntary compliance with the stay-at-home order and discretion on the part of officers to break those sort of things up and send people home,” Hopkins added to The Post.
Further, Hopkins said D.C. needs to actually free some non-violent, elderly inmates from the city’s jail after at least five inmates tested positive for COVID-19. The ACLU of DC slapped the city with a lawsuit yesterday which attempts to appoint an expert to help the city release some elderly, non-violent inmates who have underlying health issues.
It is unclear if releasing inmates from the D.C. jail is something the city is considering.