Fines for No Face Coverings in San Mateo and Santa Cruz and Now Sonoma County

San Mateo County and Santa Cruz will join Napa, Marin, and Yolo counties in imposing fines on people who refuse to wear masks. Officials can impose up to $10,000 in Marin County and up to $3,000 per violation in San Mateo for businesses that do not follow public health orders.

“This solution around fines, one it brings attention, but the second thing it does is it saves lives,” said San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa.

San Mateo County Sheriff Bolanos is supporting the ordinance and is starting to write new guidelines for his deputies.

“The approach among law enforcement especially during this time is to really work with our community,” said Sheriff Bolanos.

“Ideally we are not going to be looking for people not wearing a mask. People are going to report those not wearing a mask in an unsafe manner. We will respond, or park rangers will respond, or code enforcement will respond,” Sherriff Bolanos continued.

At first, officials will approach a person or business not implementing mask-wearing and provide a free mask. If the person or business refuses to take the mask multiple county departments will be allowed to impose a fine.

“It would be $100 for 1st violation, $200 for 2nd violation, and $500 for additional violations within a year of the first violation,” explained Canepa.

“We’re decriminalizing it because right now it’s a misdemeanor to violate public health orders, Canepa said. “We’ve taken it from a criminal action to civil. What we do is we invest a lot of money on PPE and we say to folks ‘Hey, look, we just want to make sure we’re aware of the fine.’ If they say ‘no, it’s my freedom, it’s my right not to wear a mask’ then that’s $100.”

San Mateo is the latest Bay Area county to join Governor Gavin Newsom’s watchlist and hopes the strict changes will help them reopen businesses soon.

Update: August 6th, 2020

Thursday afternoon it was announced that Sonoma County will be the fourth Bay Area county to start enforcing the mandated mask requirement with a fine.

While many public health and law enforcement officials took a “lead by example” approach at first, many are now shifting their tone as California’s 525,000 COVID cases becomes the highest in the nation.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors said that citations would range from $100 for people and up to $10,000 for businesses who do not comply with the public health order. Fines for business would start at $1000 for the first offense. Secondary offenses would cost $5,000 and $10,000 for any violation after that.

The ordinance was passed unanimously and will take immediate effect. The Board of Supervisors also established a hotline in which to report infractions: 1-833-SAFE707.

“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,” Board Chair Susan Gorin said. “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.”

However, the $100 will not just apply to face coverings. The county also said fines will be handed out for almost any breach of the public health order including not social distancing properly, gathering in groups larger than 12, or refusing to follow safety protocols in businesses.

The Board of Supervisors said they have full intention of enforcing the ordinance and has even empowered other government employees such as park rangers and code enforcement officers to write citations.

Update: August 12th, 2020

Santa Clara County has now joined the growing list of Bay Area counties that have instituted fines for those not wearing face coverings or not adhering to social distancing rules. The county’s board of supervisors unanimously passed the new ordinance that will charge up to $500 for individuals in violation and up to $5,000 for businesses.

The county has had trouble enforcing social distancing orders according to health officials but even now is hoping this new approach will not be too heavy handed. The county is allowing 24-72 hours to remedy the citation and offenders have 10 days to contest the ticket in writing. Officials are hoping that this approach will allow them to punish those who are persistent in disobeying the order while also allowing a dialogue with others.

“The whole framework around the ordinance is built around the conversation that’s occurring — it’s not an immediate imposition of any fines,” said County Counsel James Williams. “It’s a dialogue that occurs there.”

Santa Clara County has been one of the hardest hit in the Bay Area and as of Tuesday has 12,962 total cases and 207 death, ranking 10th in the state.

The new ordinance is effective immediately.


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