San Mateo County authorizes fines for COVID-19 mask violations

People in San Mateo County can now be fined up to $500 for violations of the state's COVID-19 health orders, such as not wearing a facecovering in high-risk settings.

The county Board of Supervisors approved an urgency ordinance on Tuesday imposing fines for individuals and businesses that violate theemergency health orders.

Individuals can be fined $100 for a first violation, $200 for asecond and $500 for additional violations. Businesses can be fined between $250 and $3,000 per violation depending on the gravity of the violation, prior warnings, efforts to comply or intent to profit.

Supervisor David Canepa, who introduced the ordinance, said thenew citation structures would decriminalize the process and keep residents safe.

Canepa also pointed out at Tuesday's meeting that a variety ofadministrative 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 haveadopted similar citation structures that fine individuals up to $500 andbusinesses on a sliding scale based on the extent of the violation.

The ordinance comes after San Mateo County was added to thestate'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.