Local governments and police departments in California have said in recent days that they will not enforce a mandate from Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom that people in the state wear face masks in most public places, including outdoor areas where social distancing is not possible — despite emphasis from the governor about the importance of following the order.
Local politicians and law enforcement officials throughout the state are saying that they won’t use the force of law to ensure people wear the masks, with varying degrees of outright resistance to the governor. Reinette Senum, the mayor of tiny Nevada City, for example, tore into Newsom in a Facebook post saying that ” Our Governor does not have the unilateral power to make such orders.” The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, on the other hand, said it recommends that people wear face masks and would work in “an educational capacity” to encourage mask-wearing, while not actually enforcing the mandate.
The at least one dozen municipal governments and police departments coming out against enforcement of the mask guidelines represent a significant schism between state and local authorities on how hard a line to take on the health measures. Newsom made as much clear in a Friday tweet.
REMINDER: CA, you are now REQUIRED to wear a mask in public spaces.— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 19, 2020
We’re seeing too many people with faces uncovered. Wearing a face covering is critical for keeping people safe and healthy, keeping businesses open and getting people back to work.
Do your part. Wear your mask.
But the executive orders and guidelines come with unclear enforcement mechanisms, especially for such minor offenses.
That’s part of the justification the Sacramento County Sherriff’s Office used when announcing it would not enforce the mask rule.
“Due to the minor nature of the offense, the potential for negative outcomes during enforcement encounters, and anticipating the various ways in which the order may be violated, it would be inappropriate for deputies to criminally enforce the Governor’s mandate,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. “Accordingly, the Sheriff’s Office will not be doing so. Rather, we will continue to operate in an educational capacity in partnership with the County Health Office.”
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