The Del Mar City Council has passed a resolution to use $20,000 in COVID reserve funds to ask the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to increase enforcement when it comes to people wearing face masks in public.
Since May 1, San Diego County’s current Public Health Order has called for people to wear face masks while out in public, within 6 feet of anyone not in their household, to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
“When you leave your place, cover your face,” has become a daily slogan for public health officials as they keep the county updated on the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
More than three months later, the reminders to wear that mask are everywhere, including all over Del Mar, where the city has invested in dozens of signs urging locals and visitors to wear a face mask and wash their hands.
But, still, those signs don’t always work, and the city says enforcement on the face mask mandate is needed.
Del Mar, located in San Diego’s North County about 22 miles from downtown San Diego, doesn’t have its own police department. Since the city’s incorporation in 1959, Del Mar has contracted its law enforcement services from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
The SDSO has its closest substation to Del Mar in Encinitas, which serves nearly 60 square miles that includes the cities of Del Mar, Encinitas, and Solana Beach, as well as several unincorporated neighboring communities.
So, SDSO routinely patrols the streets of Del Mar.
The resolution passed by the Del Mar City Council asks to hire part-time SDSO deputies to step up the city’s enforcement on face mask rules. The city said it’s not safe for city employees to have to enforce this, so they want to leave that up to deputies.
The $20,000 in COVID reserve funds will cover that, and another $2,000 will help Del Mar add more face masks signs around the community.
The plan includes face mask enforcement patrols from the SDSO up to two days a week, scheduled in coordination with Del Mar city staff. Those patrols would focus on the community’s busy beach areas, particularly North Beach and 17th, 20th, 25th, and 29th streets.
Patrols would also include Seagrove and Powerhouse Parks, and the adjacent sidewalks. And, for the downtown Del Mar area, the patrols would focus on the corridor between 15th Street and the Del Mar Civic Center.
As far as face mask patrols at local businesses, the resolution said the city recommends deputies only respond to “complaints and/or specific requests from businesses for assistance with enforcement” rather than “proactively entering businesses.”
This 4-month pilot program will begin this month and run through the end of November. At that point, the Del Mar City Council will evaluate the program and, if necessary, consider additional funding to keep it going.
The enforcement in Del Mar will take an “educate first” approach, which leaders hope will result in voluntary compliance from the public. Citations will be reserved for “egregious violations or individuals who resist compliance.”
Currently, anyone who refuses to comply with the county’s public health order could face a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.
The City of Del Mar said it will start issuing fines to people who violate the mandatory face mask order.
The face mask enforcement efforts are welcomed by many Del Mar residents, including Midge Zarling. She told NBC 7 the issue has become contentious and must be safely handled.
“You know, everybody is angry right now,” Zarling told NBC 7. “They’re angry at us for wearing masks; we’re angry at them for not wearing masks.”
Del Mar resident Deborah Lyons is also fed up with people who ignite public health warnings about masks. She told NBC 7 she believes citations and fines are needed for those who don't follow the pandemic-era rules.
“If you want to keep the economy open, wear your mask. If you want the beach to be open, wear your mask,” declared Deborah Lyons as she walked through Del Mar while wearing her face mask.
Anna Hellickson, 18, works at Roam Del Mar, an apparel and gift shop. She said enforcing the face mask rules on customers was a task she never thought she would be faced with.
“It’s hard to enforce that rule when we're not the law,” she told NBC 7 Thursday. “We're just working here; I'm just a teenage girl working here.”
Hellickson said those interactions get awkward and difficult when shoppers resist wearing a face covering.
“(People say,) ‘It’s up to me, it’s my decision,” she added.
Hellickson said that while some customers refuse to wear a face mask, or simply forget, she believes there’s simply “no reason to not wear a mask.”
“You're protecting not only yourself but others around you, especially when you walk into a workplace,” she said. “They're there to help you.”
The retail employee said she, too, is looking forward to more enforcement in the community in which she works.
You can read all about Del Mar’s COVID-19 face mask enforcement plan here or below.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said the Del Mar City Council would use $22,000 in reserve funds to increase SDSO enforcement on face masks. To clarify, that number will break down to $20,000 for SDSO services, and $2,000 for additional signage around Del Mar.