San Mateo County officials on Tuesday approved an ordinance that allows officials to fine people and businesses found violating COVID-19 health orders, such as not wearing a face mask.
For people, fine amounts are $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $500 for additional offenses within the same year. For businesses, fines range from $250 to $3,000, depending on the gravity of the violation, prior warnings, efforts to comply or intent to profit.
The ordinance goes into effect immediately. People and businesses can dispute violations and fines.
Supervisor David Canepa, who introduced the ordinance, said the new citation structures would decriminalize the process and keep residents safe.
Canepa also pointed out at Tuesday's meeting that a variety of administrative enforcement officers will enforce the order. This would ease the burden on law enforcement officers and would be particularly valuable given the current political climate, where many are concerned about the kinds of cases prompting response by law enforcement officers.
Other Bay Area counties like Contra Costa, Marin and Napa have adopted similar citation structures that fine individuals up to $500 and businesses on a sliding scale based on the extent of the violation.
The ordinance comes after San Mateo County was added to the state's COVID-19 watchlist last week. Businesses such as hair salons, fitness centers and places of worship are now subject to additional restrictions and must provide outdoor or curbside services.
"Our case counts continue to rise, our Latino and low-income communities are bearing the brunt and a vaccine is still not in reach. We can't know when this virus will be defeated but what we do know is a key step to stemming its spread -- wearing a face covering," President of the Board Warren Slocum said in a news release.
In addition to wearing a mask when around people outside of one's household, the county also requires social distancing, social gatherings of 50 people or less, and implementation of social distancing in business places.