COVID-19 Compliance Unit launches in San Mateo County, meant to target businesses breaking the rules

Officials say San Mateo County has already received complaints about businesses not complying with state regulations. It's this behavior that is fueling the need for the new compliance unit.
SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- San Mateo County is set to launch a new COVID-19 Compliance Unit on Monday.

The team will be tasked with targeting businesses that aren't following state guidelines.

San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa said Sunday that the eight-person task force will start issuing warnings to businesses who continually refuse to enforce face masks and maintain social distancing.

Those who still don't comply after receiving the official County warning may face fines up to three-thousand dollars and possible criminal charges.

"We've done plenty of outreach and education, but now we must clamp down on these chronic violators," Canepa said in a Sunday statement. "We are still in life saving mode here and must do all we can to restore the economy."

"The message is clear, wear your damn masks or get a damn fine," the supervisor emphasized.

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Many business owners told ABC7 News, they're throwing their support behind the move.

At Black and Gold Barber Lounge in Daly City, barber JJ Tupas and the rest of the crew explained they've taken every precaution under the pandemic.

"We're doing what we can, so we can stay open and make our living," Tupas said. "For anyone that wants to be selfish, it's just not respectable."

This week, San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy announced the county had already received complaints about businesses not complying with state regulations. It's this behavior that is fueling the need for the new compliance unit.

"We'll have a way for the public to report businesses that are non-compliant," Callagy told ABC7 News. "We will send out e-mails to these businesses. We will go out and make sure that we follow up with them."

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"If that's going to get everybody to comply like we are, then definitely," Tupas added.

The goal is to get those businesses back on the right track to make sure they stay safe, and stay open.

It's a responsibility ReDeeFit Studios co-owner Danny Lee said business owners must take seriously.

"We have to! If not, we're going to get shut down again," Lee shared. "Then we're going to be right where we started- in the early months of this COVID thing. Nobody wants that."

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The county said businesses will be given time to fix any code violation before being formally cited.

"If they don't, they could be subject to civil penalties or even criminal prosecution," Callagy told ABC7 News.

Under the county's latest urgency ordinance, new penalties for commercial businesses violating health orders can result in fines of up to $3,000.

Lee said it's a penalty not worth pushing luck.

"Our pocket is going to hurt, but it doesn't outweigh the $3,000 fine, and the prosecution and everything else," Lee added. "You're going to be in deeper trouble if you don't comply."

Starting Monday, residents will be able to report alleged violations to the Compliance Team via an online portal on the County's homepage here.

"The submission form asks for the resident's name and contact information, information about the business and the nature of the complaint and if he or she has previously contacted authorities about these concerns. Residents wishing to report violations of individuals, such as large social gatherings, should still contact their local law enforcement agency's non-emergency line. Do not call 9-1-1," the county said.

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