Facing an increasing coroavirus case rate among its residents, the City Council has tasked the Glendale Police Department with imposing fines against residents and businesses that are flouting the city’s face-mask mandate.
First offenders are subject to a $400 fine, with a second offense rising to $1,000 and a third ticket coming out to $2,000. Though Glendale was among the first Los Angeles County cities to impose a mask mandate for those in public, compliance issues have repeatedly been aired to city officials. Continuing spikes in local COVID-19 cases have only added urgency to the issue.
“None of us want to do this,” Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said. “We’re all looking down at a potential other shutdown. I don’t think any of us want another shutdown. Nobody wants us to go under lockdown again, yet if you read the news articles and look at statistics, that’s where we’re headed. So, if it takes a little bit of tough love — and, quite honestly, I’ll trust our law enforcement and the police chief to do whatever they need to do and however they need to do it — then that’s what will be needed.”
As the coronavirus continues to rage across the nation, health officials have practically begged for people to continue to practice social distancing and wear face coverings when in public, which help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. However, their efficacy is reliant on compliance.
Councilwoman Paula Devine bemoaned a recent trip to Brand Park, where she said she observed a large number of people breaking emergency laws against assembling groups of people and just generally not adhering to social distancing or mask use. One group of six girls, she said, really caught her attention for their brazenness.
“Those young girls go home to their parents and their grandparents and that means that six families have a potential of being infected with this virus,” she said.
Police Chief Carl Povilaitis pushed back against public comments alleging some police officers were themselves not masking up in public, saying that that is not condoned by the department. In terms of enforcement, Povilaitis also explained that it is not necessarily his goal to take punitive measures against every resident.
“Officers are vested with a certain level of discretion that they have in terms of how they do their jobs on a day-to-day basis,” the police chief explained Tuesday. “Our goal is to get compliance. We do interact with folks. We have found that people will comply when we go out and talk to them and request that they wear face coverings. There are times that we have also handed them out to folks in order to do that. Our tactics adjust as we go along.”
Councilman Ara Najarian showed support for GPD’s efforts and wondered if punitive measures should have been adopted sooner.
“It’s the only way we’re going to get a handle on this. Maybe it’s our fault. Maybe we were a little too soft on this [in April],” Najarian said. “We weren’t hardcore on the face mask issue, but that’s passed and everyone now agrees that face coverings are the way to prevent the spread, so let’s give the chief the authority and discretion. I mean, he’s right; you don’t want to be putting Grandma in handcuffs because she didn’t want to give her name and driver’s license, but they should have that ability if they feel the opportunity is right.”
Councilman Dan Brotman opined that enforcement should be more targeted at businesses because of the nature of the virus spreading more easily in confined spaces. He suggested assigning a city employee to be a “health ambassador” to Glendale businesses and mentioned a recent visit to a grocery store where he received pushback from an employee and a manager when pointing out the employee’s mask was below the nose.
“If they are not requiring their own employees to comply, we’re in big trouble. I would rather see us focus there,” Brotman said.
The city also has unveiled a new public campaign urging mask compliance, using its existing characters to promote the message “Don’t be a turd, protect the herd.” The panels will be promoted on social media as well as yard signs throughout town.
Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas firmly rejected assertions made by residents in multiple City Council meetings that the pandemic was being overblown and that the coronavirus was not nearly as dangerous as claimed. All throughout July, Lanzas pointed out, the city has average well over 20 new cases among its residents each day. As of press time, the county has recorded at least 2,081 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Glendale residents, and the 129 COVID-related deaths among residents are the second highest for an L.A. County city, behind only Los Angeles itself.