Additional reporting by Todd Guild
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—With the onset of warmer, sunny days, droves of people have been showing up at area beaches and parks, especially on weekends, even as the shelter-in-place order has hit day 41.
And beginning April 25, Santa Cruz County also put in place an order to wear face masks while visiting places such as restaurants, cafes and government agencies.
Law agencies from State Park Rangers to Harbor Patrol, Santa Cruz Police Rangers, Watsonville Police and more have been visible, especially along the shore, talking to groups of people and warning those who are pushing the limits.
Watsonville Police have shifted their attention to the newest requirement, said spokesperson Michelle Pulido.
“What we did this weekend was focus on the mask portion of this,” she said. “Wearing a mask isn’t the easiest task and we are all getting accustomed to them. So right now our officers are focusing on the educational portion of the mask order.”
No citations have been issued yet, Pulido said. Instead, officers are handing out printed sheets about when and where people should wear the masks because many were not aware of the new order, she said.
But as far as the stay-at-home order, WPD has now gone from warnings to issuing citations.
“We’re in the sixth week of that order and our officers are continuing to respond to violations,” Pulido said. “It’s important for people to call in violations as they are happening; we’re asking people to call immediately so we can respond.”
Pulido added that many businesses are playing a role to help enforce the orders to “get everyone on the same page.”
“It’s a challenge for all of us,” she said.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart has warned that his office is issuing $1,000 citations for violations of the shelter-in-place and mask orders.
Deputies wrote up 19 citations for violators on Sunday and seven on Saturday, spokeswoman Ashley Keehn said.
“There have been 280 SIP citations from March 19 to now,” she said.
To report violations in the City of Watsonville, call 471-1151.
When you must wear a mask:
• When you are inside of—or are in line to enter—an essential business such as grocery stores, convenience stores, supermarkets, laundromats and restaurants. This includes when conducting business through a vehicle window.
• When inside any facility providing essential government services.
• When waiting for or riding on public transportation, para-transit or are in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle.
• When receiving services at healthcare facilities such as doctors, dentists, mental health providers and veterinarians, and at hospitals.
• When working in infrastructure jobs such as roads, water, sewer and electricity.
• When operating public transportation, or driving a taxi or a ride-share vehicle such as Uber, even when there are no passengers.
• When working in an essential business or essential function, at all times when interacting with the public, regardless of whether anyone from the public is present at the time
• When working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others
When a mask is not required:
• When engaged in outdoor exercise such as walking, hiking, bicycling or running.
• When a person is in a personal office, as long as the public does not regularly visit the room.
• People with jobs such as construction worker, plumber, bank manager, accountant, or bike repair person are not required to wear a face-covering if they are alone and in a space not regularly visited by the public.
Businesses must take precautions such as posting signs to remind their customers about the requirements.
Essential businesses must take “all reasonable steps” to prohibit entry to anyone not wearing a face covering, and must not serve that person.
The Santa Cruz County Health Officer recommends face coverings be worn in these situations, and the public must still comply with social distancing requirements.