People refusing to wear masks in San Mateo County now face fines

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Refuse to wear a mask when one is required? You could be fined.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors today adopted an urgency ordinance to impose fines on individuals and businesses who violate the COVID-19 public health orders.

Individuals can receive a $100 fine for the first violation, $200 for the second and $500 for additional violations with the same year.

Commercial entities risk a minimum fine of $250 and a maximum of $3,000 per violation “depending on the gravity of the health risk, prior warnings and any good faith efforts to comply,” according to the county.

The administrative fines could be issued by members of the county sheriff’s office, local police departments, county health and parks officials and health and code enforcement officers, and others as designated by the county board.

To cite an individual for a violation, an enforcement officer must witness the infraction, but violations by a commercial business can be determined via a credible report, the ordinance states.

While violations of COVID-19 health orders are already punishable as a misdemeanor offense, county leaders say administrative citations are less punitive and costly than enforcing criminal offenses.

An uptick in COVID-19 cases prompted the fines. Supervisors David Canepa and Warren Slocum jointly introduced the ordinance and said they prefer education as a first step, but felt more needs to be done to ensure compliance.

“This ordinance decriminalizes violations of the health order essentially but at the same time gives us an added tool to enforce compliance of the state’s face covering and social distancing mandates,” Canepa said in a county statement. “If we want to return to normal and save lives then we must wear face masks, it’s that simple. But since many continue to thumb their noses at or do not understand these mandates, we must step up our outreach and enforcement efforts and let people know if you violate the law there will be consequences.”

Contra Costa, Marin, Mendocino, Napa and Yolo counties have all adopted an administrative penalty structure for public health violation fines related to COVID-19.

“Just this weekend, San Mateo County had to close additional businesses due to being on the state’s COVID-19 Monitoring List more than three days,” Slocum said in a statement. “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.”

For more information about San Mateo County’s response to the pandemic, go to

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