Additional regulations will take effect this weekend for San Diegans in the county’s effort to “change the trajectory” of the spread of COVID-19 among the community, county leaders announced Thursday.
The amendments to the public health order for the first time set guidelines for mask-wearing in San Diego County and added several other regulations for businesses and public spaces.
The order will make it mandatory for businesses that interact with the public to use cloth face coverings for their employees starting Saturday; that includes grocery stores, pharmacy’s and gas stations, according to Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.
Businesses that remain open will also be mandated to set physical distancing and hygiene procedures and post the guidance at the entrance to their business by Tuesday.
The general public will not be required to wear facial coverings but will be urged to do so when out in public, according to the new order. Medical-grade masks should not be used.
The changes after county leaders called April a critical month for the San Diego region.
“We absolutely and unequivocally believe that the month of April is the month that will determine our trajectory as a region, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Wednesday. “We believe this is the month where we find out if we end up like Italy or New York or if we find ourselves through a better pathway and a better direction.”
Fletcher urged San Diegans to take “aggressive action” of what is in our control. He said utilizing face masks should not limit other public health mandates, like social distancing, staying indoors and hand washing.
“Now is the time, the voluntary compliance is over and now it is time for strict compliance throughout all communities, jurisdictions,” Fletcher said.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said anyone who was found to be in violation of the orders in effect will face up to a $1,000 fine or up to 6 months in jail. He said anyone who sees a violation of a public health order should call law enforcement.
“These are orders and we are reaching a critical time in our county’s public health history,” the sheriff said.
Cox urged San Diegans that see a violation at a business to first alert someone inside. If further action is necessary, a form will be available at 211sandiego.org to report those in violation.
The order was also amended to close all parking lots at park and recreation facilities in the county’s jurisdiction. Public parks that remain open must have signs posted with a physical distancing plan and people who utilize the public space will be limited to “passive activities.”
When announced on March 16, the orders were initially set to expire on March 31 but the county’s public health order was extended indefinitely last Saturday.
The strict regulations already limited gatherings to 10 people or less, closed dine-in restaurants and ended in-person classes for all public and private educational institutions.
Also still in place was the strong recommendation that all persons 65 years or older and/or have underlying health conditions quarantine themselves at home.
San Diego County was nearing 1,000 cases in the region and California was nearing 10,000 cases. On Friday, there were 966 positive cases and 16 deaths reported in San Diego County.