By Steve Large

NEVADA CITY (CBS13) — The Nevada City city council unanimously passed new fines for people not following mask guidelines Wednesday, allowing its police department to enforce the policy.

This controversial vote comes hours after the Greater Sacramento region, which includes Nevada City, learned it will be under a stay-at-home order starting Friday for the next three weeks.

READ MORE: Sacramento Homeowners Told Backyards Must Be Downsized For New Trail Installation

Mayor Erin Minett said so many people are not wearing masks in Nevada City that people who want to feel safe aren’t coming downtown anymore.

The proposal drew noisy protests Wednesday outside City Hall with protesters banging drums and chanting “we will not consent.” A small and loud group of protesters gathered outside a closed Nevada City city hall as the council met via Zoom to vote on enforcing the state’s face covering mandate with civil citations, enforced by police. Fines would start at $100 for a first violation.

“There’s a bunch of people who feel like, they believe that masks are bad for you, that the COVID isn’t real,” Minett said.

Mayor Minett says she’s hopeful the new enforcement tool will help stop the spread of coronavirus.

“And for Nevada County, for the longest time we had one literally death, and hardly any cases, but all of a sudden those are skyrocketing,” Minett said.

READ MORE: Sacramento Family Struggling With Early-Onset Dementia Diagnosis Gives Heartfelt Plea On Big Day Of Giving

There have now been 1,800 total cases and 19 deaths in the county.

Nevada City’s police chief Chad Ellis voiced concern over the enforcement ordinance and warned he would send it to the police officers association attorney to determine the constitutionality of it.

“So I can tell you that law enforcement throughout the state, they’re concerned about it,” Ellis said.

Signs posted up and down Nevada City’s Broad Street show businesses asking people to wear the masks inside.
How the enforcement option will play out remains to be seen.

“I hate to see it have to go to that direction,” Kim Coughin with Novak’s Men’s Wear said. 

“I love this place I hope that we figure it all out together,” Nevada City resident Dirk Ellens said.

A city facing a COVID-19 crisis. And a council declaring face covering education is not enough, giving its police the power of face covering enforcement.

California guideline on face coverings says: “People in California must wear face coverings when they are outside of the home unless one of the exemptions below applies.”

You can learn more about the exemptions and guidance on the state’s website. 

MORE NEWS: Wine Waste: The New Superfood?

More from CBS Sacramento: