The City of Los Angeles may begin issuing fines to people who disobey mask mandate

After a month of record highs in cases and deaths associated with the coronavirus in Los Angeles County, the county closed out July with another significant jump in deaths on Friday, July 31.

Photo by Olenka Kotyk on Unsplash

The county reported 69 new deaths on Friday, a huge increase from last week’s average of 38 new deaths a day. The county also confirmed 2,651 new cases of COVID-19.

This puts the total number of confirmed deaths and positive cases in LA County (excluding Long Beach and Pasadena) to 4,339 deaths and 178,426 cases. The current positivity rate in the county is 10%, according to the county Department of Public Health.

Although talks for another lockdown haven’t materialized into a second safer-at-home order, the county once again has been urging people to avoid gathering with people outside their household, noting that the longer individuals interact with others the higher the risk of contracting the virus becomes.

In an effort to double down on widespread mask refusal, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz introduced a new motion on Wednesday, July 29 that would authorize the city to impose fines to people who are caught violating Mayor Eric Garcetti’s order to wear masks in public.

Per the motion, a first violation would come in the form of a $100 fine followed by a $250 fine for a second violation and a $500 fine for subsequent violations, according to the LA Daily News. Koretz’s motion follows another motion set forth by fellow LA City Councilmember Herb Wesson that would mandate mask-wearing while inside businesses.

“I’ve been a strong proponent of residents wearing masks to protect themselves and others from contracting the disease since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic,” Koretz told the Daily News. “I’m glad that the mayor has added the requirement to his Safer LA order, but it is past time to actually enforce mask-wearing if people will not protect themselves, their families and their neighbors, especially the most vulnerable.”

Koretz’s effort to tighten mask enforcement also comes at a time when more and more Angelenos are going back to work, especially essential workers who risk getting infected while on the job.

Southern California cities — Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach Calabasas and Glendale — have begun fining those who have not been wear facial coverings.

This week, LA County opened up four new testing sites, all of which are located in the LA County Board of Supervisors First District, particularly in East LA which has been deemed an epicenter of the virus.

“There’s a total of 13 testing sites in my district alone and I don’t think I have to explain why. Because we have the highest rates of COVID in the First District, unfortunately,” LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis said.

East LA and South Gate, in particular, are home to large communities of Black and Latino people, two communities who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“The people who work here, many of them are essential workers. Many of them have no choice but to go to work, provide what they can for their families,” Solis added. “Many don’t even have access to health care.”

LA County’s struggle to contain the virus mirrors the greater statewide struggle.

Despite California’s early success in containing the pandemic, July was the worst month for the state in terms of COVID-19 numbers and deaths: as of July 31, California has had a total of 493,140 positive cases and 9,023 deaths.

In July alone, California reported 2,844 deaths, roughly 800 more than any previous month of the pandemic.

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