Wednesday, October 21, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 33

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 29th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 22 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 22

County issues mask order, enforcement is up to individual jurisdictions

By Malea Martin

On July 23, Santa Barbara County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg issued a health order that requires individuals in the county to wear face coverings “when in high-risk situations that may contribute to the spread of COVID-19,” a Public Health Department press release announced. 

All individuals must wear a face covering in business settings—both customers and employees—as well as when using public transportation or ride-share services, unless an exception applies.

Violation or failure to comply may constitute a misdemeanor, the order states. It’s punishable by a fine up to $1,000, imprisonment, or both. 

However, county officials said at a July 24 press conference that enforcement happens at the jurisdictional level. Thus, county authorities can only control unincorporated areas, and individual cities enforce their own residents’ compliance.

“The way an enforcement strategy would work is through the authority of the local governments throughout the county,” county Board of Supervisors Chair Gregg Hart said at the press conference. “So you’ll have decision-makers at every single city council level, and obviously at the Board of Supervisors for the unincorporated portions of the county.”

Cities will decide how aggressively to approach their own enforcement, as well as which city employees would be issuing citations to noncompliant residents, Hart said. 

The intent of the health order is to align the county with California Public Health Department’s mandated guidelines, the order states, which were last updated on July 17. Municipalities across the state have issued their own health orders in an effort to align with these state mandates, and some are approaching enforcement more strictly than others. 

Hart expressed concern that strict enforcement could create more harm than good. Local agencies, he said, have to consider “the consequences of somebody refusing to participate in a course of engagement.”

“If someone is issued a ticket, what will happen if that person chooses not to sign that ticket? Are we going to arrest people?” Hart questioned. “We do not want to create violent conflicts between folks who are trying to intercede, trying to solve a problem, and in turn create another problem. It is not a simple thing, and it is not a coincidence that the vast majority of jurisdictions around the state of California have not moved into an enforcement posture.” 

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