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Mask enforcement may get tougher in Santa Barbara

Free masks have been handed out in downtown Santa Barbara to those who are not wearing them. City officials discuss an enforcement plan Tuesday. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Free masks
John Palminteri
Free masks have been handed out in downtown Santa Barbara to those who are not wearing them. City officials discuss an enforcement plan Tuesday. (Photo: John Palminteri)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - With a mask requirement in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, the Santa Barbara City Council will discuss what to do with people who refuse to comply while they are in public and near others.

Over the weekend, downtown ambassadors offered masks to those who were not wearing them.

A statistical report will be presented to the council at Tuesday's meeting.

It's expected about 15 percent of the pedestrians and bike riders are not wearing masks. It's unclear what percentage will put one on if they are given a free one.

The City will look at stronger enforcement options.

In some Southern California communities, the mask rules are very strict. Violators can receive a fine of $300.

Santa Barbara County has favored education including signage, public service announcements and one on one contact to encourage people to wear a mask for their safety and the safety of others.

"It's kinder, gentler. It's not an enforcement," said Transportation Manager Rob Dayton who is monitoring this effort. He watched carefully Saturday during the interaction by the ambassadors.

"We will provide statistics to the council about mask use and then a little bit of information about why,  why aren't people wearing masks," said Dayton.

Many business owners are taking an active role.

Jerry Rodriguez with O'Malley's said,  "People are more compliant. We tell them 'hey if you want to come in or if you want to get up and walk around' (wear a mask.)    People are very cognizant of that or they will come up and say 'hey my friend lost their mask can we buy one somewhere?'"

One of the decisions that will have to be made is to the level of enforcement and whether or not police officers will have to make sure people are wearing their face coverings.

Signs are up on downtown barricades on every block.

Some signs need upgrading.  In one area it says masks are "required." Nearby a sign says "strongly  encouraged."

Mayor Cathy Murillo has at times handed them out personally, but not everyone cared to take one.  She says she has been met with resistance.
One citizen was offered a mask Monday by the Mayor who said they were required, and the citizen said "Who says?"

A bike rider says he wears one when he is in close contact with others.

Compliance over the weekend was significantly up from two  weeks ago.
Estimates from ambassadors and downtown officials indicated it was at about 90 percent.

It's a delicate balance between a heavy enforcement and keeping the vibrant scene alive.
"We have to balance the safety," said Dayton.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gregg Hart has said, wearing a mask, washing regularly, avoiding unnecessary trips where the public congregates and keeping a six-foot distance from others is currently the strongest prevention against the virus.

The report to the Santa Barbara City Council can be found at : Santa Barbara Mask education update.

Watch tonight on KEYT NewsChannel 3. KCOY NewsChannel 12 and KKFX Fox 11 News.

Article Topic Follows: Health

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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