California county task force to fine residents for mask violations, but some criminal activities overlooked

November 20, 2020 

One county in California is getting serious about its mask mandate as COVID-19 cases climb, but local leaders have decided to let some other criminal infractions go.

Contra Costa County has created a task force to help ensure that local residents and businesses are adhering to social distancing and mask guidelines designed to curb the spread of the virus.

Fines are on the table for people and establishments found to be violating health orders, though generally warnings are issued first.

Scott Alonso, a spokesperson for the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office, told Fox News that those fines begin at $100 for individuals and increase per infraction to a maximum of $500.

For businesses, fines start at $250 and increase to a maximum of $1,000. He likened the policy to doling out traffic tickets and said it is an alternative to prosecution.

Alonso added, however, that the agencies involved are not necessarily going out and looking for violations, but instead investigate what is referred through a complaint process.

Alonso told Fox News that about 900 complaints have been called in since March - including around 100 in the last several weeks. Most complaints pertain to businesses not asking patrons or staffers to put on masks.

He is not aware of any instances where the DA's office - or any county entity - has issued a fine, but cities within the county have jurisdiction to do so, as well.


While penalties are possible for those who do not follow health-related guidance, the county will not prosecute first-time offenders caught with small amount of drugs or other non-violent offenses, like petty theft.

In September, the DA's office announced that the policy - which began as a pilot - would become official and would no longer file charges in some instances where low-level misdemeanors are involved, including theft under $300, shoplifting, disorderly conduct and low net weight cases of controlled substances, among others.

The idea is to divert low-level recreational users out of the criminal justice system and potentially into the healthcare system.


Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom found himself under fire after attending a dinner hosted by a lobbyist at an expensive restaurant, where attendees were seen indoors, without masks - in violation of Newsom's own state orders.

The Democratic governor has since apologized for his actions, which came as the state experiences the most severe uptick in infections since the start of the pandemic earlier this year.

And Newsom is receiving pushback on some of his requirements - at least one local law enforcement official has said she would not penalize residents don't follow the state-mandated curfew.

Latest News

December 3, 2020
Kamala Harris' brother-in-law floated for attorney general

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' brother-in-law has been brought up as a potential nominee for U.S. attorney general in the forthcoming Biden administration, according to reports. Tony West, who is married to Harris' sister Maya Harris, is an attorney who served in the Clinton administration and as associate attorney general in the Obama administration. He is […]

Read More
December 3, 2020
'Nobody Sees Us': Testing-Lab Workers Strain Under Demand

The Coronavirus Outbreak liveLatest Updates Maps and Cases Who Gets the Vaccine First? Vaccine Tracker FAQ April Abbott, director of microbiology at Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Ind., a mother of three who keeps a bed in her office for when her duties keep her overnight. "There is always more work to be done than the […]

Read More
December 3, 2020
New Jersey judge says husband may need 14th surgery after family attacked

A federal judge in New Jersey whose husband was shot multiple times by a suspect who authorities said was targeting her family said Wednesday that her spouse had suffered a "medical setback." Judge Esther Salas said her husband, Mark Anderl, would likely need additional surgery after having already undergone 13 surgeries since the attack in […]

Read More
December 3, 2020
Kentucky mayor falls asleep on fast-food drive-thru line, crashes into pole: report

A Kentucky mayor was arrested for driving under the influence after falling asleep in a White Castle drive-thru line and crashing into a utility pole Tuesday night, authorities said. MAN LOSES LICENSE FOR DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE ... OF CANDY Louisville Metro Police officers found Shively Mayor Beverly Chester-Burton standing outside her silver Cadillac after […]

Read More
December 3, 2020
Hotter Planet Already Poses Fatal Risks, Health Experts Warn

The Coronavirus Outbreak liveLatest Updates Maps and Cases Who Gets the Vaccine First? Vaccine Tracker FAQ Advertisement Continue reading the main story Supported by Continue reading the main story Hotter Planet Already Poses Fatal Risks, Health Experts Warn A new report presented climate change as an immediate public health danger and urged lawmakers to curb […]

Read More
December 3, 2020
Why Economists Support More Stimulus

Advertisement Continue reading the main story Supported by Continue reading the main story Why Economists Support More Stimulus And what else you need to know today. By David Leonhardt Dec. 3, 2020, 6:28 a.m. ET Want to get The Morning by email? Here's the sign-up. Good morning. Momentum is growing for more spending on coronavirus […]

Read More