You Can Be Fined $1,500 for Refusing to Follow This COVID Precaution

Ready for take off? Not until you put your mask on, says the TSA.

We all know travel has looked very different this past year and recently, there's been a further crackdown since the White House mandated masks in airports and on airplanes in January. But what you may not know is there's a hefty price tag you'll pay for failing to adhere to these COVID safety precautions now required for air travel. On Feb. 5, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that flight passengers could face a fine of up to $1,500 for refusing to wear a mask aboard an airplane, a move intended to boost safety for crew and passengers alike. Read on to learn about the new penalty, and for more pressing news on the state of the pandemic, check out The U.K.'s Top Scientist Has a Chilling COVID Warning for Americans.

Effective Feb. 2 through at least mid-May, the flight authority now requires air traveler passengers "to wear a mask at TSA airport screening checkpoints and throughout the commercial and public transportation systems." Under the new policy, fines will range from $250 for the first offense to $1,500 for repeat offenders. "Based on substantial aggravating or mitigating factors, TSA may seek a sanction amount that falls outside these ranges," the policy states.

While the TSA has stressed that they are "committed" to the new policy for the sake of "TSA workforce, for our industry stakeholders and for passengers," there are certain exceptions to the rule. Individual accommodations may be made for "those with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask because of the disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act." This exception may include individuals who "do not understand how to remove their mask due to cognitive impairment" or "cannot remove a mask on their own due to dexterity/mobility impairments," the TSA details.

These parameters are meant to discourage passengers from challenging the policy due to general mask discomfort. "This is a narrow exception that includes a person with a disability who cannot wear a mask for reasons related to the disability… it is not meant to cover persons for whom mask-wearing may only be difficult," the TSA explains.

Wondering what other COVID policies might earn you an expensive fine? Read on for more reasons you might need to pay up, and for how the virus could affect you in the long-term, check out Dr. Fauci Says These Are the COVID Symptoms That Don't Go Away.

1
You're flouting mask laws.

Man holding mask not wearing a mask
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Across the country, several major cities have instituted fines for individuals who fail to wear a mask in public settings. The actual price tag varies from place to place, with some cities having no policy at all, and others reserving the right to fine individuals up to $5,000.

For example, you can expect $100 per citation in Albuquerque and Oklahoma City; $1,000 in New York City, Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis; and a whopping $5,000 in Baltimore, to name just a few. And for more regular COVID news sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

2
You failed to quarantine after travel.

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Several states currently mandate that travelers quarantine upon entry. While it's a difficult policy to enforce and many states use an honor system, several do retain the right to fine those who fail to comply.

For instance, Hawaii, New York, and Connecticut have all doled out significant fines for neglecting to quarantine after crossing state lines, according to The New York Times. In one high-profile case, social media influencer Mika Salamanca was arrested and initially fined $5,000 for posting selfies while breaking her 14-day quarantine after entering Honolulu. After issuing a public apology, she was placed on a six-month probation, and her fine was reportedly reduced to $575. And to find out how bad the COVID surge is in your area, check out How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.

3
You run a business that doesn't comply with safety measures.

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In some cities and counties, businesses can earn major fines for failing to comply with COVID safety measures and can even be shut down by the state if their offenses are egregious enough.

One recent article by The Washington Post documented the efforts of a West Palm Beach, Florida "COVID Education and Compliance Team," who had issued a combined 243 warnings and violations and ordered the temporary closure of 27 businesses in Dec. 2020. The team was known to give out $15,000 fines to restaurants that failed to comply with county mask laws. And for more on where masking up is key, check out The CDC Says Don't Go to These 4 Places Without a Better Mask.

4
You're participating in vaccine fraud.

Masked senior woman getting a vaccine while at the pharmacy by a female pharmacist.
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In some states, medical providers that engage in vaccine fraud—obtaining the COVID vaccine under false pretenses or knowingly distributing it to those who do not qualify—can be fined up to $1 million.

For instance, in New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in December that these actions constitute "defrauding the state," and will result not only in significant fines, but also potential suspension of licensure. And for more on where you can get vaccinated above board, check out If You Live in These States, You Can Now Get Vaccinated at Walgreens.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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