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No mask, no problem? Here's why police across the region are not enforcing the mask mandate

Law enforcement agencies are encouraging masks and face coverings but say issuing citations isn't their priority.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on wearing face masks, California health officials announced on Thursday, June 18 that masks will be mandatory statewide in most public settings.

Some cities had already required anyone entering a business or leaving their home to wear a face covering, but this recent announcement requires the entire state to follow this protocol.

The guidance "mandates that face coverings be worn state-wide," with few exceptions. 

Since this is a state-wide requirement and follows the same legal authority as other state health orders, disobeying California’s mandate could result in a misdemeanor and a fine, among other penalties, though it is unclear how this enforcement will take place.


Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones released a statement Friday encouraging the public to wear masks but will have his deputies focus on education instead of enforcement.

"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 statement says.

Other law enforcement agencies that won't be enforcing the mandate include (this list will be updated):

  • Elk Grove police 
  • Citrus Heights police | statement
  • Roseville police | statement 
  • Tuolumne County Sheriff | statement 
  • San Joaquin County Sheriff
  • Placer County Sheriff

 Since many law enforcement agencies aren’t enforcing the measure, it seems it will be left up to individuals and businesses to comply voluntarily.

The California Grocers Association will abide with the order and is expecting its customers to follow the order too, said Dave Heylen, a spokesperson for the trade group.

Some businesses proactively made the decision to require face coverings in their stores months ago. Nugget markets did so in April.

Those found in violation of the state order could face fines or other penalties for the misdemeanor violation. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) could also take action against businesses whose employees or customers fail to comply.

“This is a statewide requirement and flows from the same legal authority as all of the other state orders,” said Corey Egel, a spokesperson for the California Department of Health. “Californians have done incredible work following those orders - saving lives in the process. We expect that will continue to be the case.”

In an interview with ABC10 on Thursday, Yolo County Public Information Officer Jenny Tan commented on the enforcement of masks. Yolo County was one of several California counties to require face coverings in public before the statewide order.

"We are not citing the individual person who is walking down the street or going into a store that isn't wearing a face covering," said Tan.

However, Tan said local law enforcement may be expecting businesses to enforce the order. 

RELATED: Police could cite people $1,000 for violating stay-home orders. But are they?

"If someone goes somewhere and they're not wearing a face covering, they may not be able to enter," said Tan.

Exceptions to the statewide order include outdoor activitysuch as hiking, running, biking and when eating and drinking at a restaurant, provided that six feet of space can be maintained at all times.

Some specific individuals are also exempt: children under 2 years old, the hearing impaired, and those with medical conditions that would make wearing a mask dangerous to their health are among those excluded from the mandatory order.

RELATED: Doctors, lawyers and anti-maskers weigh in on California mandate

As before, if you do have underlying health conditions or are above the age of 65 it is recommended that you continue to quarantine at home.

California health officials clarify which situations are considered to be 'high-risk' where masks must be worn at all times:

  • Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space.
  • While outdoors in public spaces when staying six feet apart from other people is not possible.
  • Going to a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank
  • Waiting for/riding on public transportation or in a ride-sharing vehicle
  • In the workplace, even when working off-site, when interacting with another person.
  • Working in a space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution
  • Working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking lots
  • In a room or enclosed area where other people are present (except for members of the person’s own household) and physical distance is not possible. 
  • Driving or operating any public transportation or ride-sharing vehicle when passengers are present. Face coverings are still strongly recommended even when no passengers are present.

"Face covering" can seem like a broad term. If you're wondering what alternatives are available if you don't have a medical mask, the CDC offers guidelines on what a face-covering should look like. 

Cloth face coverings should —

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

You can find sew and no-sew instructions from the CDC here.


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