CALIFORNIA—In a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors of Contra Costa County approved an urgency ordinance on Friday, July 31, that allows city officials to issue fines for violations of public health orders that help combat the spread of coronavirus.

The ordinance’s purpose is to give local agencies an alternative in enforcing public health orders, besides criminal enforcement. As of now, Contra Costa County reported 7,520 cases of COVID-19 and 109 deaths related to it. It is also part of the state’s County Monitoring List which requires them to close some businesses that were already allowed to reopen in California.   

“Given the significant increase in the spread of COVID-19 since May and the speed with which the virus can move through communities, the adoption of this urgency ordinance is necessary to provide an alternative to criminal enforcement of public health orders that will augment the ability of local agencies to ensure compliance with public health orders and combat the spread of COVID-19,” said the ordinance. 

Fines for health violations regarding non-commercial activities are $100 for the first one, $200 for the second one and $500 for any additional violation within one year of the first penalty. On the other hand, the fine for a first violation involving commercial activity is $250, for a second violation it is $500 and for any additional violation within one year of the first one, the fine is $1000. If the public health violation is continuous and it lasts more than one day, each day is considered as a separate one. 

Before issuing the monetary penalties, an enforcement officer may issue a notice of violation to a person or business who is not following public health guidance. They then have two days to correct the violation before receiving the fine. In cases in which the warning notice is considered ineffective by the enforcement officer, the notice of fine can be issued immediately. The person or business has 30 days to pay off the fine to the agency issuing it, and civil action may be taken if it is not paid. These fines may also be appealed within 10 days. 

According to a statement from the board of supervisors, with this ordinance Costa Contra County is trying to encourage more people to follow the health orders and prevent the spread of the virus in the community.

“Many people are following the Health Orders, but we need to increase our efforts together to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Board Chair, Supervisor Candace Andersen. “To further our progress to protect lives and reopen more local businesses and activities, we need a tool to send a fair message that everyone has to adhere to health orders to prevent the spread of the virus.”