With coronavirus cases rising, Yolo County on Tuesday passed an urgency ordinance giving county code officers the authority to fine businesses up to $10,000 for refusing to comply with state and county safety measures, including not requiring patrons to wear masks and allowing indoor dining.

The ordinance, which goes into effect immediately, is the first such crackdown by a county in the Sacramento region. Cities in Southern California have imposed ordinances with fines in recent days.

“The recent rapid spike … necessitates an increase in enforcement,” Gary Sandy, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, said. The board voted 5-0 Tuesday to set up the fine system.

Fines could range from $250 to $10,000 for businesses, depending on how egregious their actions are deemed by code officers. Fines for individuals would range from $25 to $500.

County spokeswoman Jenny Tan said county officials will strive to educate business owners first, and work with them. But, if the businesses is “willfully non-compliant” and resistant to county efforts, the fine could be imposed.

“Education is the first step and we will try it multiple times with each business,” Tan said. “We are pushing to protect community health. This is another tool in our tool chest, for businesses that just will not comply.”

Yolo County has been a leader in the region in implementing safety steps during the four-month COVID-19 pandemic. The county was among the first months ago to require people to wear masks in public settings and last week chose to voluntarily halt indoor dining at restaurants. Bars, theaters, bowling alleys and other entertainment venues as well have been ordered closed.

Nevertheless, Yolo has seen its infection numbers and rates increase notably in recent weeks, similar to what is happening throughout the state. The county reported last week it has been hit with its second serious COVID-19 outbreak in a care facility with 10 recent cases at the Alderson Convalescent Hospital in Woodland.

In some cases, Tan said, officials believe the infection is being spread by people and businesses who are defying state and local safety rules, such as opening a restaurant for an indoor party.

“There are some cases where we have talked with a business multiple times and they are still not complying,” Tan said.

The ordinance gives code enforcement officers leeway to make judgment calls on whether to impose a fine, and on what level of fine to impose.

Tan said the county will focus on non-conforming businesses, but reserves the right to issue a fine to an individual. Tan said the county may, for instance, fine someone who is throwing a large party inside their house and refuses to break it up when told to do so.

County officials said they are unlikely to fine a person for not wearing a mask in a store or crowded public place, unless it is an egregious instance of a person willfully refusing to comply with requests from business owners or others to wear a mask.

The ordinance is enforceable by the county within the cities, county officials said.


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