By Todd Guild

Most counties throughout California have now imposed some version of stay-at-home orders, which consist of a series of requests and requirements by local leaders and are designed to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Dec. 3 said that new orders keeping residents at home would be enacted when ICU capacity in any of five regions dropped below 15%.

Monterey County preemptively enacted its own orders on Dec. 9.

County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno cited Government codes 26602 and 41601, and Health and Safety code 101029, which give local law enforcement the authority to enforce the orders of health officers.

Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni announced Monday that her office will enforce the order in that county, where hospital leaders say hospital capacity is “well beyond” 100%.

Santa Cruz County will join Monterey County and the rest of the Bay Area region under the new order Friday after ICU capacity dropped below 15% on Wednesday.

Violations in both Santa Cruz and Monterey counties are punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail.

But just how far will law enforcement officials go to enforce the orders?

Most want simply to inform residents what the rules are.

“We’ve taken an educational stance for a majority of the eight or nine months this has been going on,” Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Ashley Keehn said. 

Most of the time, Keehn added, people have been willing to comply, and many have said they were unaware of the restrictions.

Keehn said that no citations have been handed out recently.

“If enforcement action is needed to be taken we’ll take it,” she said. “But we’re not going out and automatically giving citations to anyone. There has to be a good solid reason for it.”

California Highway Patrol Officer Sam Courtney says that the mission for the officers patrolling the state’s highways remains unchanged.

“We will continue to patrol throughout California,” he said. “The hope is that people will self-regulate and adhere to the requirements.”

Enforcement will likely not include stopping people suspected of violating travel restrictions, Courtney, Keehn and Thornberg all said.

“Are we going to pull someone over just because we think they violated the stay-at-home order?” Courtney asked. “The answer is ‘no.’”

But travelers should be aware that, in counties with stay-at-home orders in place, most hotels and other lodgings cannot accept out-of-town visitors.

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