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Turlock to fine shelter-in-place violators
The Turlock City Council is set to revisit its health order violation fines.

Turlock businesses and individuals not abiding by the shelter-in-place orders regarding the coronavirus pandemic could now be subject to fines.

The Turlock City Council unanimously adopted an Urgency Ordinance during their Tuesday meeting that institutes administrative fines for violating the shelter-in-place orders given by Governor Gavin Newsom and the Stanislaus County Health Officer to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

When enforced through a citation, the fines are $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation and $1,000 for the third and any subsequent violations.

The ordinance allows the City to have a noncriminal form of remedy for people who violate any kind of county, state or federal orders related to COVID-19 specifically and would be in effect for as long as there are shelter-in-place orders because of the current pandemic. This would pertain to individuals who continue to operate or patronize a nonessential business, or gather in groups in violation of the social distancing order.

“These fine levels we have advocated for are significantly lower than other jurisdictions who have adopted fine schedules are adopting…most fine systems are going straight to a $1,000 fine per incident and being used a lot in cases where facial coverings are being required. We are not advocating that because we’ve had a good relationship with the citizens and we’ve had a good level of compliance. So, it's just a tool,” said Turlock city attorney Doug White.

Sworn and nonsworn police department and fire department officials, as designated by the police and fire chiefs, are authorized to issue administrative citations.

Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar said the administrative fines would only be used after a business and/or resident was warned that they are violating shelter-in-place orders.

“We have been utilizing educational processes throughout the city and it has been working excellently. I really do not intend to, nor do I want to, issue these types of citations. But it is a tool to utilize these types of administrative cites and before we do such, we will try to gain compliance always,” said Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar.

Council member Becky Arellano called for consistency when applying the shelter-in-place orders as it pertains to what are essential businesses. She gave an example of a local landscaper who was told he could not continue mowing a lawn when down the street six City of Turlock workers were working on a median landscape strip and not social distancing.

“We need to be clear that we’re following the policies that we’re implementing as well throughout the City,” said Council member Becky Arellano.

A list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” as determined by the State Public Health Officer was included in the City Council agenda packet for reference. The list includes healthcare workers, public safety workers, public works employees, workers in food and agricultural sectors, energy sector employees, water and wastewater workers, transportation and logistics workers, communications and information technology, critical manufacturing, community-based government operations and essential functions, hazardous materials workers, chemical sector employees, defense industrial base sectors and those in financial services.