BOSTON (AP) — The owner of a Massachusetts tax preparation business faces more than $136,000 in federal fines for allegedly prohibiting employees and customers from wearing face coverings and failing to follow other guidelines meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Ariana Murrell-Rosario, owner of Liberty Tax Service in Lynn, after an inspection of the business.
“This employer’s willful refusal to implement basic safeguards places her employees at an increased risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus,” OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton said in a statement. “Stopping the spread of this virus requires businesses’ support in implementing COVID-19 prevention programs, and ensuring that staff and customers wear face coverings and maintain physical distance from each other.”
The business was also cited for failing to provide adequate ventilation, failing to implement controls such as physical barriers or enhanced cleaning methods to reduce the potential transmission of the virus.
Murrell-Rosario on Wednesday told The Daily Item of Lynn that she follows guidelines from the federal National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health. She said “masks have high loads of various pathogens on them" and wearing them puts employees at risk of HIV, herpes and hepatitis C.
Health experts say claims, like those made by Murrell-Rosario that masks put the wearer at risk, are false.
Murrell-Rosario said she plans to contest the fines.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by about 1,900 Thursday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 5.
The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,087 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to about 626,000.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were about 710 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 160 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 59. There were an estimated 35,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
More than 4.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including more than 2.9 million first doses and more than 1.7 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
More than 1.9 million people have been fully immunized.