ENCINITAS, Calif. – The City of Encinitas became the latest local municipality Wednesday to ramp up compliance of a statewide mandate requiring residents to wear masks in public settings.
In a unanimous vote, City Council approved launching a new program focused on educating those refusing to wear face coverings. The three-month test program also institutes potential fines of up to $1,000 for residents for violating the public health order.
Ultimately, the council said the goal is to get people to realize the importance of wearing a mask in public when social distancing is not possible to help stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re calling this an education-to-compliance program,” Assistant City Manager Mark Delin said.
Officials said they want to start by hiring a county deputy for two four-hour shifts per weekend.
Educating residents is a central part of the program, which also gives teeth to officials to hand down tickets to those unwilling to comply, they said. In the three-month period, the program also can phased out early or shifts can be decreased at the city manager’s discretion.
“I want the law enforcement because it gives it more gravitas,” said Council Member Jody Hubbard, who represents District 3, “but, yes, I want it to start with education and when they get pushback from somebody who doesn’t want to do it, that’s when you get a ticket.”
“I don’t want to have a situation where we’re basically using our law enforcement to cite a number of people,” Council Member Joe Mosca said.
But even as the pilot program was received unanimously by the body, it met mixed reviews from local residents.
“If you’re going to be considerate of other people, then, sure, put a mask on,” resident Norman Cook said, “but if you’re going to go around fining people, I don’t think that’s fair or just.”
A number of California cities already have enacted various enforcement measures on face coverings. Among them, the City of Del Mar hired part-time deputies to work two days a week to enforce the county’s public health order, also threatening fines and potential jail time for violators.
Carlsbad city officials recently were split on the idea, though it is expected to return to its council for consideration.
In Encinitas, the council said it hopes to start the new pilot program before Labor Day, enforcing the face covering mandate downtown and at beach staircases.
The estimated cost of the program is $15,000, according to the city.