Coronavirus surge prompts Napa County to enforce fines for breaking health guidelines

NAPA COUNTY, Calif, (KGO) -- In Napa County, as of Wednesday, people can be fined for breaking the county's public health guidelines, and businesses can be fined for not enforcing them.

People who hold gatherings or walk outside without a face covering risk fines of $25 to $500. Businesses could pay up to $5,000 for failing to enforce mask and social distancing rules.

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"It is good for our safety," Napa resident Jeff Behar told ABC7. "I see people with masks who don't cover their nose. That's as bad as not wearing a mask in my opinion."

Napa County passed its emergency ordinance last night.

It will not rely on sheriff's deputies or city police officers.

Instead, the county will use staffers in its code enforcement office.

The ordinance leaves the level of that enforcement to a city's discretion.

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"It's pretty much complaint-driven, said Napa City Manager Steve Potter. The ordinance landed on his desk this morning. "We will have a contact number. Email. Do a follow up for education. . We might do a second phone call. Then there might be a fine."

That is more than strong enough for Napa resident Jeannette Cassavre, who said, "They should have started out stronger. But putting people out here to enforce masks would be a little bit of overkill."

Others expressed disappointment. "I don't think it has enough teeth," said Tyler Roddee, who owns Oenotri Restaurant on 1st Street.

He favored the ordinance when in the planning stages, but expressed disappointment at the lack of active enforcement.

"It is a waste of time at that point. Now, we are still the enforcers, in fact. And while that may make people feel better it doesn't work for us. It doesn't change the situation," he said.

Still, the move puts Napa into the rapidly growing column of California counties adding financial penalties for not following social distancing.

The new emergency ordinance will remain in effect for as long as Napa County remains on the state's COVID-19 watch list.

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