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Some cities will fine residents who don’t wear masks in bid to slow coronavirus

Anthony Mitchell and Anissa Randle of Los Angeles walk along the Strand in Manhattan Beach on July 3.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

It’s been several weeks since Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Californians to wear masks or face coverings while in public settings.

But with coronavirus cases and hospitalizations spiking, some communities are now saying they will fine people who violate the rules.

The West Hollywood sheriff’s station announced this week that deputies will issue citations to those who are not following the statewide coronavirus health order to don face coverings while in public or high-risk settings.

Those citations will cost $300 for a first offense, according to the sheriff’s station.

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In Santa Monica, first-time offenders will be charged $100 and the third offense will cost $500, the city said Thursday in a media release.

The city of Monterey also said it would fine those not wearing face coverings.

While health officials say wearing face coverings is a vital tool in the fight against COVID-19 — as they can help keep those who are infected from spreading the disease to others — some local governments and county-level law enforcement agencies said they would not enforce the requirement.

State and county officials have largely emphasized education, rather than enforcement, to encourage compliance with coronavirus-related rules.

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But there is new pressure to get more people to wear masks.

Newsom on Friday warned local officials they could lose funding if they don’t abide by the restrictions the state has imposed, including closure of bars and other businesses.

Other are echoing a message of safety.

“Everyone should be wearing your face covering. I’m not asking you; I’m telling you,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday.

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“If there’s no mask, there should be no service in any of the places where we shop, where we work,” he said. “If you’re in contact with another person, wear that mask as a way of saying, ‘I care about you.’”

Some of the nation’s top infectious-disease and epidemiology experts say moving away from universal mask wearing — one of the only tools against the coronavirus until a vaccine is available — will only frustrate society’s efforts to reopen.

“It’s the only way we get back to work — it’s to mask,” Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, chair of UC San Francisco’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, told The Times in June. “All of the data tells us ... it’s pretty clear that masking is the element that changes the trajectories of the COVID pandemic.

“Literally, the only way we open up — which all of us want to do — is put on a mask,” Bibbins-Domingo said.

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She said it’s no coincidence that some countries where universal masking has long been culturally accepted have been hit less hard by the pandemic. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” she said.

In these countries, residents have been spared the most severe stay-at-home orders or have moved out of that phase more quickly. “They haven’t seen large spikes because there’s a strong universal masking culture,” Bibbins-Domingo said.

A recent study out of Germany found that face masks reduced the daily growth rate of reported infections by around 40%. In a British study, mathematical models found that wearing face masks all the time while in public — not just after symptoms appear — would reduce the number of people with active infections over time.

“If widespread face mask use by the public is combined with physical distancing and some lockdown, it may offer an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and reopening economic activity long before there is a working vaccine,” the lead author of the British study, Richard Stutt of the University of Cambridge, said in a statement.

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Meanwhile, San Diego County was placed on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list Friday because the number of new cases reported daily continues to grow, officials said.

The change in status comes as the July 4 weekend begins. Officials have expressed concern that the county’s beaches and other outdoor areas could see an influx of visitors from surrounding counties, where beaches have been closed because of persistently high infection numbers.

Counties on the state monitoring list for at least three consecutive days must shut down certain businesses. Because Friday was San Diego County’s first day on the list, it means local businesses should prepare to close or modify their operations as new restrictions are expected to go into effect on July 7. Restrictions may last for three weeks, a countywide statement said.

Ten more COVID-19 deaths were reported Friday, bringing the region’s total to 387. Six women and four men died; their ages ranged from the mid-50s to late 90s. All 10 had underlying health conditions.

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The Orange County Health Care Agency reported six deaths due to COVID-19 and 713 new positive tests received. Cumulative deaths due to the disease caused by the coronavirus now stand at 360, that number including 184 skilled nursing facility residents and 14 assisted living facility residents. The county’s total case count has risen to 15,778.

Hospitalizations countywide numbered 584 as of Friday, with 187 of those patients in an intensive care unit.

There were 5,963 additional tests reported within the last day, bringing the county’s total tests administered to 253,991. An estimated 8,075 patients have recovered after contracting COVID-19.

Los Angeles County did not report numbers Friday and said it would do so either this weekend or Monday.

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Without the L.A. numbers, California repored 4,325 new cases and 53 new deaths on Friday.

The Associated Press and San Diego Union-Tribune contributed to this report. Times staff writer Rong-Gong Lin II also contributed to this report.


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