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Contra Costa Supervisors Approve Fines For COVID-19 Health Order Violations

MARTINEZ (CBS SF) -- The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday used its emergency powers to pass a new ordinance that establishes fines for violations of COVID-19 public health orders including the wearing of face coverings.

Violations of coronavirus pandemic public health orders can also pertain to inadequate social distancing and group gatherings.

The Board unanimously approved Ordinance No. 2020-21 effective immediately after determining it was necessary to provide an alternative to criminal enforcement of public health orders that will augment the ability of Contra Costa County and other local agencies to ensure compliance with public health orders and slow the spread of COVID-19.

"Many people are following the Health Orders, but we need to increase our efforts together to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community," said Board Chair Supervisor Candace Andersen in a press release regarding the ordinance. "To further our progress to protect lives and reopen more local businesses and activities, we need a tool to send a fair message that everyone has to adhere to health orders to prevent the spread of the virus."

For individual health order violations involving non-commercial activities, the amount of the fine is $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second violation and $500 for each additional violation within one year of the initial violation. For violations involving commercial activity, the ordinance designates a fine of $250 for a first violation, $500 for a second violation and $1,000 for each additional violation within one year of the initial violation.

According to the ordinance, if a violation continues for more than one day, each day counts as a separate violation.

Throughout this pandemic, Contra Costa leaders and law enforcement have tried to encourage "educational enforcement" before issuing penalties. Before issuing a Notice of Fine, an enforcing officer can first issue a Notice of Violation, which gives a person or business up to two days to correct a violation.

In cases where the enforcing officer determines that issuing a Notice of Violation is unnecessary or ineffective, the enforcement officer can immediately issue a Notice of Fine.

Because Public Health Officer orders apply countywide, this ordinance also applies countywide under Government Code section 8634. The ordinance may be enforced in cities and special districts by officials designated by those agencies to enforce the ordinance.

Residents in Contra Costa County have been legally required to wear face coverings when out in public since April.

Earlier this month, Contra Costa health officials issued updated updated guidance for wearing face coverings. The new guidance stipulated that face coverings "should be worn in businesses and in areas where people wait in line to enter businesses, and that everyone should wear a mask or face covering whenever they are within six feet of another person who is not a member of their household, except in very limited, industry-specific situations."

A copy of Ordinance No. 2020-21 has been made available to read on the Contra Costa County website.

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