Santa Ana Issues New Mask Mandate, but Enforcement Remains Unclear

Santa Ana Issues New Mask Mandate, but Enforcement Remains Unclear
A mobile COVID-19 testing center is set up in Santa Ana, Calif., on Aug. 26, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Jack Bradley

A new mandatory mask order implemented by the Santa Ana City Council will require residents and visitors in the Southern California city to wear face coverings—but how authorities will enforce the regulation remains unclear.

Paul Eakins, Santa Ana’s public affairs information officer, told The Epoch Times that the citywide mask mandate will be in line with the state requirement and goes into effect as soon as the city manager signs the executive order.

“Having a local mask order both sends a strong message to the community about the importance of using face coverings and gives the City the ability to penalize those who do not follow the rule, such as in the form of a fine,” Eakins said via email. “What exactly these consequences would be will be determined in the executive order.”

In a vote taken during their regularly scheduled meeting on Dec.1, the councilmembers chose unanimously to direct the city manager to enact the mandate under local emergency authority. The city manager had issued a previous executive order on April 15 requiring mask use by certain employers and businesses, Eakins said.

“The public should know there could be consequences if they don’t comply, but we would rather not have to take such actions. We want to focus on education about the importance of masks, and we hope that Santa Ana residents and visitors will voluntarily comply with the mask order,” he said.

The Santa Ana Police Department told The Epoch Times that it is still waiting for the city manager’s directives for guidance on how to enforce the new mask mandate.

“Our stance has always been voluntary compliance and education,” Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told The Epoch Times.

“We’re not looking to enforce, but it’s obviously a tool if needed. ... Whether this changes anything, we’ll have to see when we get the directives from the city manager and the council.”

Until more information is received, Bertagna said police will continue educating citizens on the importance of wearing masks rather than issuing citations.

Santa Ana’s outgoing Mayor Miguel Pulido said the pandemic has entered a “new phase,” and since COVID cases are expected to keep rising, the situation called for an emergency mandate.

“I do think, unfortunately, this is an emergency,” Pulido said at the council meeting. “Masks are about one of the few things that we have to protect us right now.”

Pulido, who is leaving office after 26 years as the Orange County city’s mayor due to term limits enacted in 2012, warned that things could worsen drastically if the mandate isn’t effective.

“The pandemic is alive and well. With the positivity rates that we have in parts of the city, 20 percent can become 40 percent, and 15,000 people infected can become 50,000 people infected, and 330 deaths can be over 1,000 deaths,” he said.

“Nobody’s gonna save us—we have to save ourselves. And this cloud is getting dark very fast, and the county does have resources, and we have to force them.”

Councilmember and Mayor-elect Vicente Sarmiento praised the outgoing mayor for his motion to waive the Brown Act, which requires public access to local legislative meetings, so councilmembers could introduce the mask mandate.

“I think it does speak well of your time as mayor here knowing that you are going to be relieving yourself of this responsibility, but nonetheless, making a very strong act to make sure that you protect the residents that you’ve represented for so many years,” Sarmiento said.

Councilman David Penaloza said alerting the community to the new mandate would take a concerted effort.

“We’ve got to make sure that we advertise this everywhere we can—emergency signs that we have during construction, the ones advertising the COVID testing, and social media, everywhere we possibly can—so that the community knows that there will be consequences if you’re not wearing a mask,” he said.

Eakins said the order is another tool the city can use as part of its “comprehensive response” to the ongoing pandemic.

Since Santa Ana launched its Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) program in August, the city has provided residents with over 270,000 free masks, 17,000 free COVID tests, and millions of dollars in rental assistance, business grants, and other financial aid, he said.

“Our Mobile Resource Center has brought all of this directly to the residents, visiting over 100 park and neighborhood sites.”

According to the state’s COVID-19 website, everyone in California is now required to wear a mask or face covering when outside of their home, with some limited exceptions.