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Arroyo Grande considers penalties for non-mask wearers

Angel Russell/KCBX
Signs on the front door of an Arroyo Grande store asking customers to wear masks.

Choosing not to–or forgetting to–wear a mask in parts of California could cost you. The city of Monterey is now citing people not wearing masks, and the city of Arroyo Grande is eyeing a similar ordinance.

Governor Gavin Newsom made face coverings mandatory across the state back in June, but he’s left it up to local governments to enforce that mandate. In Los Angeles, getting caught without a mask can cost you up to $300 and in Monterey it’s a $100 violation.

Arroyo Grande city council member Jimmy Paulding says the city is debating whether to adopt a similar ordinance.

“We are in uncharted territory, and we see our numbers, unfortunately, rising right now in our county,” Paulding said. “We need to all do everything we can to try to keep those numbers down.”

If passed, the ordinance would allow code enforcement and police to issue civil or administrative citations—not criminal—to violators of the governor’s mask order.

Paulding said the city has been receiving calls from people complaining about long lines of people not social distancing or wearing masks inside businesses where they should be.

“That’s really what this is about, it’s a community response and how can we work with residents and business owners alike to just do the best we can,” Paulding said.

How much those fines would be has not been decided. An Arroyo Grande visitor from Fresno, Brian Shepard, said handing out fines to people seems unfair. He thinks enforcement should mean a lighter approach.

“A couple of warnings, friendly reminders if anything, but not just a ‘Oh you get a fine because I don’t see a mask on you,’” Shepard said. “I’m not trying to pay another fine for nothing,”

But Arroyo Grande resident Virginia Roof disagrees. She’s concerned about the numbers of people she sees not following the mandate.

“I understand people might be upset by a fine element to it,” said Virginia Roof, “But if people don’t want to do it voluntarily for the good of others, maybe they need that as a reason to wear it.”

The ordinance will be up for discussion and possible adoption during the city's July 14 council meeting.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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