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Fines For Violating COVID-19 Health Orders Go Into Effect In San Mateo County

SAN MATEO (KPIX 5) -- After weeks of warnings to mask up, as of Wednesday residents in San Mateo County who choose not to heed public health requirements can be forced to pay a fine.

"People don't take it seriously until it costs them money," said Antonio Scott of Daly City.

"It's about time. We should have done this months ago," said Daly City's Cathy Brigaerts.

It was Day 1 of enforcement after county supervisors passed the new ordinance making those who don't comply with health orders subject to fines on Tuesday. It appeared most people were following the rules and most were in agreement with the fines.

But for some, those rules are still a bit nebulous. David Fields is one of them.

"I'm a little confused by what it means," Fields said. "If I'm by myself, do I need to wear one? The rules aren't clear and they seem to change by the day."

Supervisor David Canepa said the board had no choice but to give the rules teeth after seeing copious violations and spike in corona cases that made them the latest Bay Area county on the state's watch list.

In Pacifica over the weekend, Canepa said he "...saw fifty people, no masks, on three park benches with tables."

First-time violators of coronavirus-related public health requirements could get slapped with $100 fines. The fines would increase to $250 for a second offense and $500 for each one after that.

That includes not wearing masks or keeping six feet of social distance as well as gathering in large groups.

And for those who think it's only the police you have to look out for, think again.

Health officers, the parks director, code compliance officers, the environmental health services director and fire marshal can all issue citations and fines.

Initially, the goal will be to educate first and fine later. But if people don't wise up with masks up, their wallets will pay the price.

"Well, if you have to fine people to get them to behave, I guess you do it. But it seems like people should be figuring these things out for themselves," Fields said.

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