Del Mar, California is where the turf meets the surf. It’s also where people can now meet big fines and possible jail time for not covering their faces.
“I feel like my freedoms have been taken away and that I should have a choice,” said Kindra, a woman visiting this San Diego County beach town from Gilbert, Arizona.
Others seem split on the city’s recent decision to spend $20,000 from its COVID-19 relief fund to have sheriff’s deputies enforce mask wearing rules.
“Spending money that we don’t have to create another enforcement just feels like a blatant misuse of government funds,” said commercial real estate investor David Thomas.
“You have to adopt a cooperative attitude; we’re all in it together,” said Del Mar local Andrea Walters. “Would it kill you not to wear a mask? No!”
The city also spent $2,000 adding signs reminding people to wear masks.
“To people who feel like their rights are being tread upon, I wish they would look at this in a different frame,” said Del Mar mayor Ellie Haviland.
Haviland says this extra enforcement is not a scare tactic but rather a way to be as proactive as possible to help get this pandemic under control.
“It has been shown in other communities around the world that enforcement is one of the key elements of getting the compliance needed in order to get people wearing masks and social distancing,” she said.
Haviland added that anyone not wearing a mask and is less than 6 feet away from someone that’s not considered a household member is violating local health codes which could result in a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
“I don’t think you can ever look for that to happen unless there’s something egregious,” said Del Mar-based lawyer Bing Bush, Jr. “It’s just a matter of public safety.”
While Bush Jr. believes most people don’t have to worry about getting fined or going to jail for not wearing a mask, he says there is a lawful hierarchy across the county where cities are required to do at least the bare minimum when it comes to enforcing state and county health requirements.
“I think where it gets kind of tough is where again you butt up against individual rights,” he said. “Folks aren’t quite used to having their so-called freedoms taken away for the public good and it’s a challenge.”
It's a challenge city leaders say is based on facts and science not politics or individual beliefs.
“This is strictly about what are we seeing working in other places and what are the health experts recommending that we do,” Haviland said.
This added enforcement is a four-month program that runs through November. City leaders will then look at the results and decide what’s next.