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San Diego law enforcement taking 'educational approach' to facial covering ordinance in first days

As of Friday, May 1, facial coverings are now required for most public settings. Anyone caught breaking the ordinance could be charged with a misdemeanor.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Sunday marked the third day San Diegans were under a new facial covering ordinance which went into effect Friday. News 8 has received a lot of emails about the new public health order implemented amid the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic and many are wondering how enforcement of the requirement is going.  

As of Friday, May 1, facial coverings are now required for most public settings. The cloth facial coverings, which are required until further notice, don’t have to be hospital-grade but should cover the nose and mouth. 

Homemade masks, bandanas, scarves and neck gaiters are acceptable, since these items can be washed and reused. 

The new ordinance does not require facial coverings when you’re walking, running, surfing, or exercising. They also aren’t required when driving alone, when you are home, or when you’re with people who live in your household. 

San Diego County officials have said that everyone should have a facial covering or mask with them in case they come within six feet of someone.  

County health officials have said anyone caught breaking the ordinance could be charged with a misdemeanor however San Diego law enforcement opted to take an educational approach in the first few days of the ordinance. 

"The direction the staff has from the San Diego Police Department is one of education and asking for compliance," said Chief David Nisleit with the San Diego Police Department. "If an officer sees you without a facial covering, an officer will contact you ask you to put it on and give you that education of why it's required based on public health order and ask you to do that. It's all about cooperation."

While some are already complying with the order, others have posted online saying they are intentionally not cooperating and don't plan to. 

"It's a little frustrating just because if we're all following rules. Everybody should. Yeah it's uncomfortable, yeah it's new and not fun but if we all do it the sooner it'll be over," said a woman walking on a trail at Lake Poway. 

Looking at the initial stay-at-home orders as a guideline, police typically wait one to two weeks before writing citations but they could start sooner. 

"Really what we are asking for, just like we've always been asking for, is if you go in public we want you to wear a face covering. It's not only to protect yourself, but it's also to stop the spread of this virus," said the Chief.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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

Cloth face coverings are an important safety practice for the public to follow to prevent COVID-19 droplet transmission, according to the CDC and the California Department of Public Health.

Residents are still required to stay at home as much as possible, practice social distancing of at least 6 feet, and use other public health measures, such as frequent handwashing, sanitizing protocols and staying home when sick.

The County of San Diego Health and Human Services offered the following guidelines about face coverings in San Diego: 

Where to Wear Coverings

Face coverings must be worn in public settings, such as:

  • Waiting in line to go inside a store
  • Shopping in a store
  • Picking up food at a restaurant
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation
  • Riding in a taxi or ride service vehicle
  • Seeking health care
  • Going into facilities allowed to stay open
  • Working an essential job that interacts with the public

Face coverings will not be required:

  • At home
  • In the car alone or with members of the same household
  • When advised by a medical doctor
  • For children under 2 years old due to the risk of suffocation
  • When swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling or running provided there is social distancing

“People must have a face covering readily accessible to put on in populated areas to avoid droplet spread in a six feet radius when participating in any type of active recreation,” Wooten said.

Local business must:

  • Require employees, contractors, owners and volunteers to wear a face covering at work and when working off-site
  • Inform customers about wearing a face covering, including posting signs and advising those in line or in the store
  • Refuse service to anyone not wearing a face covering

Will Citations Be Issued? 

The primary goal of the face coverings is for San Diegans to protect each other by following public health orders. It would be unreasonable to expect law enforcement to patrol individual face-covering adherence.

However, people who choose not to wear face coverings may be cited and denied access to businesses, transit or recreational areas.




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