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Will police cite me for not wearing a mask when shopping? Here’s what authorities are saying

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Wearing masks is now legally required of those who go to essential businesses in Los Angeles County.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Wearing masks when shopping or doing essential business in public is now the law in Los Angeles County.

But authorities are hoping that the public will comply voluntarily.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villaneuva and L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore aren’t about to cite anyone right now, but officers will offer a few words of encouragement from behind their own masks, worn to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We are looking for voluntary compliance. We have discussed it with all the police chiefs in the county,” Villaneuva said. “We aren’t talking enforcement here.” Villaneuva, wearing his own mask, said it is about people doing the right thing for others when they are heading out to essential businesses and are around others.

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Firefighters and law enforcement officers from L.A. to Laguna Beach express their gratitude to healthcare workers for their efforts in fighting COVID-19.

Los Angeles and the county first implemented the requirement for masks to be worn on visits to essential businesses last week. Mayor Eric Garcetti made the announcement and now his social media is filled with images of him in a black mask. The LAPD has repeatedly said that it is cracking down on enforcement at businesses deemed by the city to be nonessential but not on individual customers.

Kathryn Barger, chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced Tuesday that the county would begin enforcing a rule that requires residents to wear face coverings while going to essential businesses and that sheriff’s deputies would give warnings and, if need be, citations.

Barger took to Twitter Tuesday afternoon to remind the public that as of Wednesday the wearing of face masks at businesses was mandatory as part of the effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. She tweeted “deputies will give warnings, and some may have extra masks with them to encourage compliance.” She said that if a situation escalates, “a deputy may opt to issue a citation,” and that stores can refuse service to those “not taking precautions.”

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“We hope people voluntarily comply,” said Michelle Vega, a spokeswoman for Barger. “It is our hope it doesn’t get down an enforcement issue.”

Villaneuva said he was not aware of her statement and that his department did not plan to cite people for not wearing masks at this time.

These are some of the unusual new scenes across the Southland during the coronavirus outbreak.

Law enforcement officials have been cracking down on others who violate stay-at-home rules.

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Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer filed criminal charges against 10 businesses — including a massage parlor, smoke shop, carwash and print shop — saying they refused to shut down despite Garcetti’s order that such businesses do so.

It’s part of a larger crackdown not just on nonessential businesses but also on individuals who are going to beaches, trails and parks that are closed.

Last week, Feuer charged four stores — two smoke shops, an electronics discount store and shoe store — with violating the closure order.

More than 120 citations have been issued across San Diego County to people accused of violating stay-at-home orders.

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A group of Sacramento County law enforcement agencies also announced Wednesday they were cracking down.

“While education continues to be the primary focus of all agencies when it comes to violations of the health order, law enforcement agencies in Sacramento County will now also take enforcement action on violations of the public health order that clearly put the health and safety of our communities in jeopardy,” the agencies said in a statement.


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