During the week, several cities across California began imposing fines for failing to wear a mask in public.
Monterey, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica joined Beverly Hills, which began mask fines in April. Rather than smaller fines under $100, the cities have imposed more expensive first time offense fines in an effort to force people to keep masks on and to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Many cities have also added subsequent fines for repeat offenders, with fines going as high as four figures.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Captain Edward Ramirez of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station announced that the starting fine would be a total of $300.
“The COVID-19 infection rate is moving up in California,” explained Captain Ramirez. “The Governor has recently issued an Order for everyone to wear a face cover/mask while in public. West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station has been educating people about face covers/masks since the first Order. Our last option was to conduct enforcement by issuing an Administrative Citation, but the risk to Community health is too great.”
Santa Monica’s fines, also announced this week, went even further. While first violations would only amount to a $100 ticket, third violations rack up to $500. Businesses that fail to comply will receive a $500 fine for a first offense, with a $1,000 fine for a third offense.
“Face coverings are essential,” said Santa Monica Interim City Manager Lane Dilg in a statement. “I encourage everyone to try different styles to find what works for you. But it is a critical time to save lives by wearing face coverings whenever we are outside of our homes and not gathering with people outside of our households.”
Finally, Monterey became the first city outside of Los Angeles County to issue mask fines, with fines starting at $100 and climbing up to $300 for a third offense.
While the fines are being put in place because of the public health risk and to stop the record growth in new cases in the state, some residents have questioned the addition of fines to enforce the mandatory order.
“This is insane,” said Monterey resident Phil Nichols to the Globe. Nichols had received a warning by a member of the Monterey Police two weeks ago for temporarily removing a mask for extra air after going out for a run. “There are going to be some legitimate reasons for removing a mask, but now it doesn’t really matter, does it?
I did it safely down the street and away from other people. I was only lucky they didn’t begin fines then.
I’m all for masks and stopping this thing. But they literally have to give us some breathing room when there is a need to take it off, like drinking water to take life-saving medication for example. If we do it a safe distance away from others and sanitize and everything, no harm done.”
Other Californian cities, as well as a few counties, are currently in discussions for mandatory mask fines. New fines are expected to be announced after the July 4th holiday.