City approves fine for residents not complying with social distancing, mask wearing

Kierra Frazier, Senior Reporter

DeKALB — Students and DeKalb residents who intentionally gather in groups of more than 10 people without a face covering or who aren’t social distancing will now be ordered to pay a $300 fine due to a newly passed city ordinance.

The motion passed by the DeKalb City Council involves amending the city’s municipal code so large gatherings that aren’t complying with the state’s emergency order are prohibited. 

City Manager Bill Nicklas said recent parking lot gatherings and the spike of COVID-19 cases in DeKalb is what prompted the ordinance. 

“We are doing what the public health experts in our county and at the state level are saying you need to do,” Nicklas said. “This is not a joke, because not only are you going to affect people around you but you can be infected by somebody who’s there and may not even know they may be asymptomatic. Then you go home and that’s how it spreads, it’s an insidious virus.”

Those who fail to comply with the new ordinance will be fined $300 for a first-time offense, and an increased fine for continuous offenses, according to the Sept. 14 agenda

Graduate student Andrew Tillotson said he knows the ordinance was created with good intentions but is concerned that it’ll prevent residents from being able to peacefully protest. 

“That is a major concern of mine, I know, not in DeKalb, but in other places, certain protests have been broken up with COVID as an excuse for that,” Tillotson said. “The city manager and I may not agree on everything, I certainly agree that the recent social justice movement is one that should be allowed to continue to protest.” 

Nicklas said over the summer, there were only two arrests when protests occurred, both of which were not COVID-19 related. 

The ordinance passed on first and second reading 7-0 with First Ward Alderperson Carolyn Morris voting no. 

Morris said she spoke with protesters on Monday to hear their concerns with the ordinance. She said she wasn’t sure how she was going to vote on the ordinance taking into consideration lower socioeconomic residents who may be more disproportionately affected by the ordinance. 

“[The ordinance] simply asks that you either be six feet apart, or you wear a mask, which seems like a very reasonable request,” Morris said. “However, it seems like we’re having some targeting issues, so I think we just have to be really cautious, as we implement this.”