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People without face coverings could be fined in Nevada City

A pair of urgency ordinances passed by the Nevada City Council makes noncompliance with any state public health guidance or emergency order of the state or county a public nuisance punishable through administrative citation.

The council voted unanimously Wednesday for four ordinances meant to promote businesses adhering to COVID-19 orders while giving the city civil enforcement of state and county mandates.

The fine amount for the first violation is $100, the second violation is $150, and the third violation is $200.



The council stressed the urgency ordinances, effective immediately, would give more teeth to the state orders, but will only be used as tools for enforcement against the most egregious of violators.

“I don’t see how we can educate any more,” Vice Mayor Duane Strawser said. “We’re way past that.”




Nevada City Police Chief Chad Ellis said warnings could be given first, like with any other ticket. He emphasized that most law enforcement agencies statewide are still in educational stages, and constitutionality is also a concern for agencies.

“For the most part, law enforcement deals with penal code and different vehicle codes, now we’re dealing with different government code and different public health orders that are not commonly dealt with by law enforcement agencies,” Ellis said.

“There’s a lot of personal responsibility that has to come into play here for people to get us through this pandemic and this crisis,” he added. “I don’t know if law enforcement is the best option on the forefront of this.”

The urgency ordinance enforcing county and state emergency orders would also use the city’s nuisance abatement process to deal with any violations. That could include revoking any conditional use permits, civil action or criminal prosecution.

“If you don’ t like our mask mandate, don’t go downtown,” Council member Doug Fleming said. “It’s as simple as that, go some place else where they don’t require masks.”

NEVADA CITY SAFE

At the meeting the council also approved the “Nevada City Safe,” a program designed to promote businesses complying with COVID-19 orders.

“This is really about putting forth the businesses that are safe for our constituents and townspeople to go,” Mayor Erin Minett said. “We have gotten so much feedback from residents asking us to pass this so they know which business is safe to go to into.”

The program would have business self-certify that they have performed a risk assessment and site-specific protection plan, trained employees to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and implemented a control and screening measures for employees and customers.

Businesses would then receive a poster to display identifying them as a safe business.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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