Santa Cruz County on Tuesday joined the list of jurisdictions taking a hard stance on health order violations, citing an increase in COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations.
An urgency ordinance unanimously approved by supervisors allows issuing citations with fines for violation of state or county health orders, including requirements to wear face coverings, maintain physical distancing, and gathering in groups outside your immediate household.
The new ordinance applies only in unincorporated areas of the county, with cities left to determine enforcement and penalties in their jurisdictions.
The ordinance, effective immediately, establishes fines of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second and $500 for a third within a calendar year. Prior to the ordinance, violations were subject to a misdemeanor penalty of $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
"The county's primary objective continues to be educating individuals on health order requirements," officials said in a news release. "The lower level of enforcement allows law enforcement officers and administrative staff to support community health and safety by quickly addressing situations without escalating them into court cases or arrests."