The county will ramp up its Covid-19 safety enforcement efforts this weekend as hordes of holiday shoppers are expected to descend on malls and other stores.
At a press conference Nov. 24, Santa Clara County officials announced that the Covid-19 Business Compliance Unit will be out in force during the Black Friday shopping weekend to make sure businesses are following proper social distancing measures and other safety protocols.
In addition, from Thursday through Sunday, fines issued will not have a grace period. Until Thursday, the county has been allowing businesses who corrected their compliance issues to have the fine waived.
Retail businesses must also comply with the state’s 10pm-5am stay-at-home order. Grocery stores and take-out dining options are exempt from the state’s order.
County officials urge businesses and customers to follow safety protocols, such as wearing a face covering, maintaining social distance and limiting capacity.
Under the “purple tier” of the state’s Covid-19 reopening guidance, grocery stores must limit capacity to 50 percent and clothing and retail stores (including malls) have a 25 percent capacity limit.
County Counsel James Williams said the county has been hearing “many concerning reports” about crowding in stores.
“It is absolutely vital that every single person in our county and every single business and entity follow those protocols that we put in place to help protect employees and help protect customers when they’re out and about,” he said.
Michael Balliet, director of Community and Business Engagement for the county, said businesses previously had a 72-hour grace period to correct violations and avoid paying a fine. That grace period will be suspended Thursday through Sunday, he said.
Fines can begin at $250 and can go into the thousands for offending businesses, and there can be fines for multiple violations.
“We’re doing that in the hopes that businesses will really be on point in ensuring compliance in their facility,” Balliet said. “They have a legal obligation and ethical obligation to protect their workers and the public.”
Offending businesses will not be asked to pay the fine on the spot, Balliet said, but will instead go through a process later. Investigators with the compliance unit will be clearly identified with yellow vests, he noted.
The Gilroy Premium Outlets are expected to be a focus during the Black Friday shopping period. The outlet stores typically draw thousands during this time. The outlets, which will be closed on Thanksgiving, will be open from 6am to 9pm on Nov. 27.
Anyone wishing to report suspected violations can do so at sccCOVIDconcerns.org.
Last week, county officials announced that the seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases is the highest it has been since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospitalizations also increased by more than 50 percent in one week.
As of Nov. 23, 191 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 in the county. From Nov. 16-23, Gilroy reported 242 new cases, while Morgan Hill had 78 during the same time period.