Los Angeles Officials Considering Citations For Those Caught Not Wearing Masks: “Reckless Endangerment”

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A Los Angeles City Council committee directed its staff report back on ways of encouraging — possibly through
citations or other enforcement — adherence to requirements that residents wear masks to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

During the council’s meeting on Friday, Councilman Paul Koretz said in his district, about half the people he sees walking in public are not wearing masks. This despite orders from both Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom. In June, Newsom issued an executive order requiring people to wear them at all times when outside the home.

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“I truly can’t fathom the people who are politicizing mask wearing — literally for some people, a choice that will (mean) life and death,” Koretz said. “It seems like we should start to consider it reckless endangerment of others to not wear a mask.”

Koretz — whose district includes Bel Air, Westwood, Culver City, Encino, Palms and South Robertson — said he favors developing a method for the city to issue citations to people who do not wear masks in public, but he also said he supports a public education campaign on the matter.

Rising case numbers and hospitalization rates have caused concern and across the state and nation.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Friday that, after weeks of engagement with the state’s hardest-hit county, he was asking officials in Imperial County, near San Diego, to increase COVID-preventative restrictions.

Newsom said he would leave it to county officials to determine the appropriate measures but, if they did not find the right measures, “I am committed to intervening.”

Imperial County’s test positivity rate over 14 days is approaching 23 percent. As a result, they “need to decompress their hospital system,” said Newsom. He encouraged Imperial County to return to stay-at-home status.

“What we’re not looking at is accountability at the local level,” Newsom had warned on Wednesday, before emphasizing that under the new budget proposal, the governor’s office can withhold some of the $2-and-a-half billion newly-allocated COVID-19 funding from counties that are not complying. Newsom then said compliance will be assessed on a monthly, rather than a yearly schedule. “We cannot reward bad behavior,” he said.

Newsom ended his Friday Press conference with the admonition “Wear a mask.

The Los Angeles Police Department, mirroring other local law enforcement agencies, has said its goal is to have people voluntarily comply with public health directives, rather than resorting to punitive measures such as citations or fines.

After a week of record numbers and a curious plunge in cases yesterday, Johns Hopkins University indicated on Thursday that Los Angeles now has the highest number of coronavirus cases of any county in the nation.

Johns Hopkins reported 89,633 total cases in L.A. County as of Wednesday. That institution’s numbers frequently outpace other sources, but the Centers for Disease Control came in just slightly lower at 89,490 total infections. That would still place the county at the top of John Hopkins’s ignominious list.

Police have reported some cases that rose to the level of trespassing when people refused to put on a mask inside a private business, according to a report from the Chief Legislative Analyst’s office.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said citing people for not wearing masks may be “government overreach,” saying he would rather see a public education campaign to encourage people to wear masks.

Councilman David Ryu, who chairs the HENPAR Committee, asked several city departments to review current enforcement protocols and to make recommendations on how the city can encourage people to wear masks in public.

Ryu also recommended a report on formally requiring all city employees to wear masks whether indoors or outdoors, and for a report on whether federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding could be used for a public education campaign.

Health officials have said that wearing a mask does not necessarily protect the person wearing it, but will help prevent that person from spreading the disease to others.

Also on Friday, U.S. health officials reported a single-day national record of 39,327 new infections. Florida alone saw a jaw-dropping 9,000 new cases.

As a result, reopening efforts are either paused or being rolled back in 11 states.

Florida’s Palm Beach County, Alabama’s Jefferson County, Utah’s Salt Lake and Summit counties and Kansas City all implemented mask orders on Friday. Ten of Texas’ largest counties recently implemented orders that businesses require face masks or risk fines.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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