SONOMA COUNTY (CBS SF) -- The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance Thursday that allows government employees to issue citations for individuals and businesses that don't follow state and local orders for stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Local law enforcement and other government agents can now issue fines of $100 for individuals and $10,000 for businesses that fail to take mandated precautions against the coronavirus.
The board unanimously approved the ordinance on an urgency basis, which means the county implements it immediately after its passing.
Among the infractions that can lead to $100-fines for individuals are:
- Failing to wear facial coverings,
- Not practicing safe social distancing (maintaining 6-foot separations from non-family members) when in public,
- Taking part in gatherings of more than 12 people who aren't sheltering in the same household,
- Refusing to abide by COVID-19 safety protocols required at restaurants, stores and other businesses.
Businesses such as restaurants, bars and stores face fines starting at $1,000 for noncompliance such as not requiring safe practices for employees. A second violation by the same business increases the fine to $5,000, and it's $10,000 for each violation after that.
The ordinance also states that the enforcement and issuing of citations isn't limited to police. Government employees such as park rangers and inspectors can issue them, which are described as "having the weight of a civil penalty, like a parking ticket" in a press release from the county.
At the same meeting, the board also approved the creation of a new County hotline – 1-833-SAFE707 – that allows the public to report infractions. The public can also send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Our goal is to prioritize education and outreach before fines. We know that most people are following the health orders and wearing facial coverings when out in public, practicing social distancing and avoiding large gatherings," said Board Chair Susan Gorin in the release. "But we have seen a need for more enforcement options to deal with the small number of folks who are willfully disregarding the order. This ordinance will help address this issue in our community."
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