Government / Politics

San Benito County drafting new ordinance to address noncompliance with COVID-19 regulations

Supervisors will consider legislation at a special Jan. 15 meeting.

San Benito County will attempt for the third time to adopt an ordinance that includes fines for businesses and persons who do not comply with COVID-19 regulations. The Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a vote on Jan. 15.

“We must as a legislative body do something to protect our community,” Supervisor Bea Gonzales said at the board’s Jan. 12 meeting. “We have been derelict in our duty and I do not want to point fingers at the previous board, but had we done something six, eight months ago, we might be in a totally different situation than we are now. Something must be done.”

Supervisors previously considered an ordinance on two occasions, but failed to gain the majority of votes needed for approval. On one occasion, Supervisor Mark Medina said he could not support an ordinance that included all the elements of the health orders, while former supervisor Jaime De La Cruz said he could not support the ordinance without collaboration from San Juan Bautista and Hollister. 

San Juan Bautista City Council unanimously adopted a COVID-19 enforcement ordinance in December, one day after the Hollister City Council voted not to adopt its own version. 

At the Jan. 12 supervisor meeting, Medina formed an ad hoc committee of newly elected Supervisors Kollin Kosmicki and Bob Tiffany to draft ordinance options for the board to consider on Jan. 15 at 6 p.m.

County Counsel Barbara Thompson presented various elements the ordinance could cover and said it would require a 4/5 vote to pass. Upon approval, it would take effect immediately.

Tiffany said he was interested in receiving input or a recommendation from San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency Director Tracey Belton to make sure the ordinance addresses the areas of most concern regarding the spread of COVID-19.

“What we don’t want to do is come to this meeting and not make a decision,” Tiffany said. 

While the majority of supervisors voiced their support for an ordinance, Supervisor Peter Hernandez said he fears what will result if an ordinance is adopted.

“I feared that this was coming only because, like I’ve stated before, I’ve always been afraid of the division that is going to be happening in our community,” Hernandez said, adding that he supports public health and protecting those who are most at risk from the virus.

Eleven residents spoke in favor of crafting an ordinance; nine opposed it. 

Tiffany said he opposed criminal charges, favored a resolution that went beyond facial coverings and that he preferred a countywide ordinance provided that the county will coordinate with cities on enforcement. He also said he viewed the ordinance not as a way to punish people or small businesses, but as a way to ensure compliance from those who openly defy health orders and put other people at risk. 

“I think that we have to focus on the areas where there are the higher risks and the greater violations,” Tiffany said. “The people that are not wearing masks, they go to, whether it be Nob Hill, Target, and they are openly defying the mask ordinance. Those people, I think, should be dealt with. They shouldn’t be allowed in that store to begin with.”

Supervisors also approved an amount not to exceed $750,000 for a second round of business grants. The program will be developed by County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa in collaboration with the ad hoc committee made up of Tiffany and Kosmicki. 

Other related BenitoLink articles:

San Benito County seeks collaboration from cities on COVID-19 penalties

San Benito County refining guidelines for COVID-19 penalties

SJB Council adopts COVID-19 enforcement ordinance

Hollister Council votes against citing for noncompliance with COVID-19 restrictions


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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.