A Texas salon owner has been sentenced to seven days in jail for defying a state-wide coronavirus lockdown and keeping her shop open, even after a judge ordered her to close down.
Shelley Luther, 46, was put behind bars for a week under the court-ordered punishment, which comes amid broader efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Luther was jailed on Tuesday and fined $7,000, according to CBS Dallas Forth Worth.
Luther refused to shut down her Salon a la Mode business last month under the governor’s sweeping stay-at-home order, which affects all non-essential businesses, including nail salons. She kept the shop open even after receiving a citation, a cease and desist letter and a restraining order, the court heard.
Luther, who also runs Hot Mess Enterprises, openly tore up her cease and desist order last week at an anti-lockdown event called “Open Texas.”
Anti-lockdown activists in the United States have rallied to Luther’s cause, and a GoFundMe page to help her business has raised more than US$273,000 to date. The page describes the hair salon owner as an “American Hero.”
Luther admitted that her business was still partially open during her sentencing hearing in Dallas on Tuesday after a judge scolded her for ignoring a law meant to keep everyone safe.
Dallas Civil District Judge Eric Moye described Luther’s conduct as “flagrant and intentional,” and cited her lack of “remorse or regret” in his decision, according to court documents.
“The rule of law governs us,” Moye said in court. “People cannot take it upon themselves to determine what they will and will not do.”
He added that he was open to giving Luther a lighter sentence if she would simply admit she was wrong and apologize for her “selfish” actions.
“I have to disagree with you, sir, when you say that I’m selfish because feeding my kids is not selfish,” she said in court, according to CBS Dallas Fort Worth.
“I have hair stylists that are going hungry because they’d rather feed their kids. So sir, if you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision but I am not going to shut the salon.”
Luther was taken into custody at the hearing but her lawyer plans to appeal the case.
Dallas County is the second hardest-hit area of Texas right now, with more than 4,600 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 121 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will allow hair salons, barbershops and nail salons to re-open on Friday. The governor recommended that both employees and customers wear face masks.
Many nations have locked down non-essential services to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but no country has seen the kind of resistance on display in the U.S., where some have angrily fought back against any effort to curtail individual freedoms for the greater public good.
Protests have broken out across the country in recent weeks, with many of them led by far-right, pro-gun and pro-Trump groups.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 72,000 Americans since the outbreak began, and lockdowns to slow the virus’ spread have plunged millions into economic distress, regardless of their political stripe. Overall infection numbers have slowed, but data shows that’s largely because the outbreak in hardest-hit New York has been brought under control. Infection rates continue to rise through much of the rest of the country.
U.S. President Donald Trump has urged state governors to begin re-opening the economy, which he has often tied to his re-election efforts.
“The people of our country are warriors,” Trump said during a roundtable on Tuesday. “I’m not saying anything is perfect. Yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country opened and we have to get it open soon.”
Health experts have warned that loosening social distancing measures could trigger a second wave of infections and deaths.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters