SONOMA COUNTY (KPIX 5) — One by one, Bay Area counties are starting to crack down on violators of the coronavirus health orders as people defy the law and cases of COVID-19 continue to climb.
“If we don’t get serious, ashes to ashes, we all fall down,” said Lifelong Medical Care Dr. Desmond Carson.
The emotional plea was made Friday as California became the first state in the nation to reach 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. The state also reported 9,147 deaths.
“People must respect the guidelines of the health community, we must wear masks,” Dr. Carson said.
Despite the orders, individuals and business owners continue to break the law.
Now some Bay Area counties are beginning to warn residents and visitors that they could face stiff civil penalties.
Sonoma County leaders are expected to pass a civil compliance ordinance next week that could bring $100 in fines for individuals and up to $10,000 for business owners who are caught violating orders.
“I think we’re at a point now where there’s widespread understanding of what we need to do as a community,” said Sonoma County Spokesperson Paul Gullixson.
Contra Costa County leaders passed a similar ordinance earlier this week that could bring up to $500 in fines for individuals and $1,000 for business owners for each violation.
However, all nine Bay Area counties said they would continue leaning on education rather than enforcement.
KPIX obtained numbers from all the counties in the Bay Area earlier this week. In Contra Costa County, there have been 315 complaints since the shelter-in-place order went into effect, but zero citations have been handed out.
Solano County also reported zero citations with 220 complaints. Marin County reported more than 400 complaints since implementing a new tip line two weeks ago, and zero citations. Napa County also reported zero citations.
However, some counties are issuing citations over health order violations. Alameda County handed out three citations and 4,524 complaints. In San Mateo County, the sheriff’s office reported four citations and 848 warnings while police gave out six citations. Sonoma County said it has received 767 complaints and the sheriff’s office has handed out 14 citations.
Santa Clara County, which set up a hotline early on in the order to avoid callers inundating the 911 system, has received more than 10,000 complaints as of last week. The county handed out 50 citations; mostly in the first month of the order.
“We are very focused on education, but education only takes you so far,” Gullixson said.
Carson said now is not the time for education. Instead it’s time to follow the law.
“We need the National Guard to come out to tell these fools who don’t want to wear masks that you’re going to wear the mask or you’re going to go home,” said Carson.