By Velena Jones

YOLO COUNTY (CBS13) — Yolo County businesses not following public health orders could face up to a $10,000 fine. The county’s Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance Tuesday allowing for enforcement of penalties for violating orders.

In a press release, the county said they will begin increasing “implementation of enforcement measures focused on businesses and organizations to prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in the community.”

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The county has seen a large increase in cases over the past four weeks, with total cases growing by more than 200%, the release said. So, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the county developed an enforcement strategy with the cities of Davis, West Sacramento, Winters, and Woodland.

“People tend to take things a little bit more seriously if they know that they know there is a fine and a consequence to your actions,” said Jenny Tan, Public Information Officer for Yolo County.

While they will primarily focus on education, the county said if violations or non-compliance persist, the may take enforcement actions. Those actions include:

  • Public Communication: Provide information to the public identifying any organization or business in non-compliance.
  • Urgency Ordinance/Fines: Enforceable by the County. The County’s Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance on July 7 allowing for the enforcement of penalties for violating Public Health Orders ranging from $25 – $500 for non-commercial violators and from $250 – $10,000 for commercial violators. The ordinance is enforceable by the County within the cities, which may also adopt similar ordinances to expand the enforcement options available to their staff.
  • Misdemeanors: May be issued by city police departments or Sheriff’s Office with prosecution by the District Attorney.
  • Business Closure: Enforceable by County Counsel or the local Health Officer.
  • Civil Action: Enforceable by County Counsel or City Attorney and may include seeking court orders to shut non-compliant businesses down until compliance is assured.
“We are only going to get through this together. We hope that we don’t have to get to enforcement, but if we do have to, at least that is a tool that is available to us,” Tan said.
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This announcement comes days after the county decided to shut down all bars and some indoor activities. While 19 counties were told by the state to halt indoor dining due to increasing cases, Yolo County voluntarily closed businesses for at least three weeks.

“We want to work with you. We want you to do this on your own because you are looking out for your community and public’s health and their safety,” said Tan.

County officials said last week the country is “likely to exceed the elevated disease transmission criteria on the State of California’s County Data Monitoring.” As of Monday afternoon, Yolo County had 705 reported cases, 29 of which were reported Monday, and 26 deaths.

The county expects education will work in most cases and enforcement will only be needed for severe violations or repeat offenders.

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Nancy Garica owns Kulture in Woodland and believes the move will help the community move in the right direction.

“The goal is to stay safe and be able to keep our businesses open, so as a small business owner, I think it is a good thing if all of the businesses are cooperating and doing what we are suppose to be doing,” she said.
Supervisors in El Dorado County are contemplating enforcement, after notice from Governor Newsom that informed counties who are not in compliance could jeopardize receiving millions in state funding.

Through the state budget process, El Dorado County was allocated $19.7 million in CARES Act funding, according to the County. The area will also receive an additional $2.8 million to backfill lost revenue for their realignment programs, including Social Services, Public Health, Behavioral Health and Public Safety. In order to receive the funds, the County Executive is required to submit two attestations that follow all federal, state, and local health orders.

Supervisors will meet Thursday at 2 p.m. for a special meeting to discuss what enforcement could look like.

Yuba-Sutter Health said their educational approach is working despite growing cases.

“We have noticed a lot more cooperation from people going into businesses. We do think it is working,” explained Rachel Rosenbaum, spokesperson for Yuba County. “The majority of these infections are actually coming from multiple interactions and social gatherings — cases where enforcement might not really come into play.”

Rosenbaum said the county is only focused on education at this point.

“Our residents and businesses like everywhere in the country have really been hit hard by this and we don’t want to have to put a further financial burden on our community,” she said.

Counties including Sacramento, Placer, and San Joaquin currently do not have plans to issue fines.

Velena Jones