County authorizes new tools for enforcing COVID ordinances

As summer drags on, the school year rapidly arrives, and restriction fatigue ratchets up, COVID-19 continues to spread.

Officials aim to help keep residents and businesses in line with mask rules, limits on crowds, and physical distancing. The County Board of Supervisors authorized new enforcement teams at their meeting Tuesday, shifting away from police. Now a group of 32 enforcers will take to the streets starting Monday.

The new approach comes with civil penalties for non-commercial violations, between $25 and $500. The fines rise to between $250 and $5,000 for commercial violations.

Grace periods apply for up to 72 hours after a violation. If the issue is not abated, then enforcers apply the fines.

“Only in limited circumstances (e.g., when there is a particularly severe and immediate threat to public health, or when a business is a repeat offender) will no grace period be provided,” County staff said in a report.

The county has also established a new engagement group to help improve outreach to the community and local businesses. The goal remains voluntary compliance, but the group can refer violations to legal authorities in the county.