Santa Clara County vows to enforce COVID rules amid holiday shopping

Santa Clara County plans to crack down on businesses that don't follow the COVID-19 health order this holiday shopping weekend. Special enforcement is planned where businesses could be cited and fined without a grace period.

More shoppers are expected to visit places like Santana Row, shopping malls and big box retailers hoping to score Black Friday deals.

The increased foot traffic means there's an increased risk for coronavirus to spread. California has seen some of its highest daily case totals of the pandemic in recent days.

“We are going to have enforcement officers patrolling the area,” said Santa Clara County Public Health Department Spokeswoman Betty Duong. “They are going to visiting all the popular shopping destinations.”

Starting Thursday and extending into the weekend, Santa Clara County health inspectors are performing double duty as enforcement officers fining businesses not complying with the health order.

Possible violations include employees not wearing masks, no social distancing in stores and exceeding capacity limits.

Stores will also be fined if they don't have protocols and capacity limits posted.

“Fines could be in the hundreds of dollars,” said Duong. “It could be $500 and up. It could head into the thousands if violations are severe enough.”

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Unlike past enforcement, when businesses had time to correct the violation, citations this time around won't come with a grace period. Officials said the county can't afford to wait.

“We’ve had the highest hospitalization rates we've ever had since March,” said Duong. “Our hospitalizations rates have increased by 88 percent in the last week. These are alarming numbers.”

The owner of Maker’s Market at Santana Row said she understands county health workers are doing their job. However, she’s frustrated about Governor Newsom’s dining experience at the French Laundry and doesn't entirely agree with government enforcement.

“I do think if you have a willing seller or a willing buyer,” said Ekman. “Everyone should take it upon themselves to protect themselves as they see fit.”

Shoppers said businesses have been doing a good job with compliance. They appreciate the extra enforcement.

“Even though I haven't seen it,” said Armita Asghari of San Jose. “Maybe there are some stores that aren't being as safe as they could be. I think it’s a pretty good idea.”

The officers will be wearing visible ID and won’t demand payment on the spot. Additional penalties could stack up for those business owners unwilling to pay. They have the option to appeal.