One of the most difficult aspects of the COVID-19 crisis to navigate for government officials has been violations of health and safety protocols, from businesses not complying with the relevant health and safety protocols to people not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

After first unveiling a task force comprised of representatives from municipalities throughout Marin and county employees,  Marin County officials are turning over the responsibility of investigating tips about businesses violating COVID-19 public health rules to Marin’s cities and towns.

County officials announced the policy shift this week after an earlier plan faced logistical challenges and proved too difficult to manage. To streamline processing going forward, each municipality will investigate and consider issuing fines for violations taking place within its own jurisdiction limits, and the reporting of the problem will go directly to that jurisdiction. For instance, those seeking to report violations within the City of Mill Valley should email SIPviolations@cityofmillvalley.org, while those doing so in unincorporated parts of Mill Valley like Tam Junction or Strawberry can fill out this short form

“In order to flatten the curve in Marin, we must ensure that people are engaging in social distancing and wearing face coverings,” said Angela Nicholson, Assistant County Administrator and Director of Marin’s Emergency Operations Center during the pandemic. “Our hope is that outreach, education, and warnings will deter those who are not following the business requirements. It is quicker and more efficient for each jurisdiction to follow up on its own complaints.”

Since it issued an order in July to create the process to report violations, County officials have received at least 175 business violations via Marin County’s Environmental Health Services Division over the first six weeks of the enforcement order. In all, Environmental Health Services logged more than 500 complaints during that period, but many were duplicates of one incident or not related to businesses. With the goal of compliance, the County has contacted more than 100 businesses to provide education and gain compliance with the shelter-in-place (SIP) order. Only a handful of businesses have required second and third visits or fines.

Mill Valley City Manager Alan Piombo said the focus of the City’s approach to violations will be “education, education, education. Our process will start with education and a warning, and we’ll return three days later and only issue a citation if a business has chosen not to comply.” Fines range from $250 to $10,000 for businesses and from $25 to $500 for individuals.

“We are more than six months into this health emergency, and ending it  will take a sustained team effort,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer. “Enforcement is vital to help people be held accountable for actions that jeopardize public health and prolong the pandemic.”

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