Thu. Nov 30th, 2023

Sonoma County is stepping up its efforts to get people and
businesses to comply with COVID-19 safety restrictions like mandatory face
coverings and social distancing.

The county has opened a complaint line where anyone can blow
the whistle on businesses that aren’t following the rules. The line lit up with
tips on hundreds of possible violations in just the first two days.

Anna Cortez of Santa Rosa said she rarely sees workers at
any of the businesses without face coverings.

“It’s a very minor inconvenience to be able to still come
out and enjoy outdoor dining and stuff,” she said.

A spokesman for Sonoma County, Paul Gullixson, said 95% of
all businesses within the county are practicing health and safety standards to
help stop the spread of the virus.

However, the county did receive those reports of violations.

“Between the time the phone line went active at 3 p.m. Thursday and last night, we had about 189 calls, reports and emails. And then today we had another 59 – so about 250 in the first two days,” Gullixson said.

Gullixson said that although the complaints are numerous, they may only involve a handful of businesses. He said its likely just a small percentage of businesses are refusing to comply, but officials worry that that small number could lead to many cases and hospitalizations.

In a few instances he said people left political statements and complained about the fines violators could face. The fines are $100 for individuals and $1,000 to $10,000 for businesses that refuse to comply.

The new threats of fines come after weeks of escalating
COVID-19 numbers in the county, more than 500 new cases in the first week of
August. The county now has more than 3,400 total cases and 47 deaths.

Gullixson said most of the complaints come directly from
customers who want to help stop the spread.

“These are customers that are not happy that employers are
not asking or requiring their employees to wear masks, and sometimes employees
want to wear masks and employers are saying no,” he said.

Customers who spoke with NBC Bay Area agree.

“You should definitely make everybody comply and definitely
make everyone wear a mask,” said Moses Mendoza of Santa Rosa.

So far, the county has only issued warnings. But Gullixson
said fines are coming for those businesses that continue to defy the experts
and the law.


By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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