Reopening California: Napa City and County to crack down on enforcing face masks, social distancing

NAPA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Health officials have said repeatedly that wearing a mask does reduce the risk being exposed to the coronavirus.

However, it remains difficult convincing Americans to wear them.

RELATED: Masks are required in California, but how are they enforced?

Now, some communities are beginning to consider "incentives." Thursday in Napa, the city and county announced the formation of a compliance task force with a priority of getting people to wear masks and observe social distancing in public places.

"It's a little irresponsible to walk around without a mask considering the infection rate, and public health, and that is a concern," said Tomasa Duenas as she stood on a sidewalk, waiting for a sandwich.

Napa and other counties could lose state funding if they fail to get the mask issue under control. It was a subject of discussion as Napa County's Health Director and Board of Supervisors met Thursday to discuss the crisis.

"If education and outreach is not enough, then it is going to get to the point where we have to have enforcement for non-compliance," said Dr. Karen Relucio.

RELATED: San Mateo Co. supervisor urges Gov. Newsom to enforce face mask mandate with fine

In making that statement, Dr. Relucio used to two 'e' words---education and enforcement.

Now, add a third to the mix from local business owners.

Elation.

"It is not our job, no," said Chuck Meyer, who owns a bar and café in Napa.

"It is really challenging to make the host of a restaurant the enforcer of mask wearing," added Tyler Rodde, who owns Oenotri Restaurant.

As in many communities, Napa restaurant owners have just been through three excruciating months without income while investing for re-openings.

RELATED: Face masks not recommended for elementary school students, pediatric group says

At Oenotri Restarant, Tyler Rodde has put in plastic barriers and is still not opening inside dining in order to protect his staff. It's tough being tough, he said.

"If someone comes in and does not want their temperature taken or wearing a mask, we don't serve them at all. Period. Full stop."

It remains unclear which penalty measures Napa County might take, or how it might enforce them. Fines? Citations?

"If public health can't change behavior, or statistics, or the governor, I don't know how a fine will change their behavior," said Tomasa Duenas, as she walked off with lunch in her hands.

As this pandemic rages, we may soon find out, and not just in Napa.

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