Sonoma County on Thursday gave civil authorities in local government the power to issue fines to individuals and business operators who refuse to follow pandemic safety orders and measures designed to slow or stop the spread of the coronavirus.
But in adopting a new civil enforcement ordinance, a unanimous Sonoma County Board of Supervisors made clear its interest in continued efforts to win voluntary compliance with public health orders, rather than rely on citations and fines.
The intent, Supervisor James Gore said, “is not to penalize” but to educate the public about keeping each other safe, and then “cite people who are jerks, who are looking back at our compassionate enforcement and saying, ‘I’m not going to put my mask on. I’m not going to shut my business.’”
The new ordinance provides the tool to do that, allowing for individuals to be cited and fined $100 for non-commercial violations.
Commercial violations may be subject to civil penalties of $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000, depending if it’s the first, second or third violation by the same party.
Sonoma County’s new ordinance, effective immediately, is similar to those adopted in neighboring counties Marin, Napa, Mendocino and Yolo counties, and comes amid a statewide surge in COVID-19 transmission.
Locally, new infections have soared in recent weeks to nearly 3,300 cases ‒ and probably more. A technical glitch in the state reporting system has interfered with the exact count from private testing labs.
The county had reported 44 deaths as of Wednesday night, up by two from earlier in the week. Both were women who were over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions. One lived in a skilled nursing home, while the other was in a residential care facility, expanding the toll that the pandemic has taken on senior home residents, who account for more than 80% of the county’s coronavirus deaths.