SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The City of San Jose will be voting on a face-covering ordinance to slow the spread of COVID-19 that would go beyond the requirements of Santa Clara County. But the city’s police chief and mayor appear to be at odds over its enforcement.
The ordinance would make people wear masks practically anytime they are in public or even outdoors, or risk the possibility of getting a ticket.
“It’s to prevent you from infecting someone else,” said San Jose Vice Mayor Chappie Jones.
Jones said San Jose would be the last big city in the Bay Area to have a face-covering ordinance.
“It’s been proven that face coverings will stop or mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Jones said.
Many people walking the streets are already voluntarily wearing masks in San Jose.
“I think this is something that we should have had in place weeks ago,” said Karen Avila.
But during a city council discussion on how the ordinance would be enforced, Police Chief Eddie Garcia said his officers would not enforce it.
“From a law enforcement perspective in how we enforce it, it’s not our role,” Garcia said. “I do fear that enforcement would impact the vulnerable, the homeless, the less-affluent communities.”
That prompted the mayor to weigh in.
“I just want to address the concerns raised by the Chief, I appreciate those concerns, I don’t agree with them,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo.
Other agencies are enforcing mask rules.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office, which provides police patrol for the city of Cupertino, said it’s enforcing that city’s ordinance.
“Although we wished no enforcement action would be necessary, there were incidents in which members of the public were cited,” a statement read.
One person donning a mask before he went into a store said the situation in San Jose is confusing.
“I think it does send the wrong message when your law enforcement department is not backing up what the policymakers want,” said San Jose resident Rich Avila. “It would be nice if they were all on the same page.”