As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Tulare County, the city of Porterville has cracked down on mask-wearing by making it mandatory to wear a mask while in public places.
Mandatory mask wearing has been in effect for some time now, but the city has implemented further precautions by giving out notices of violation, as it did with Jenny Lynn's Cafe. Jenny Lynn's continued to offer outdoor dining, which was a violation of the stay-at-home order issued in early December.
While it may be easier to enforce mask wearing mandates at restaurants and shopping centers, it can be difficult to enforce them at quick one-stop shops, such as gas stations and mini marts.
Businesses receiving notices of violation are reported to the city by local residents through the MyPorterville app. The city, specifically code enforcement, then takes action by pursuing the complaints against non-compliant businesses.
"The City Council and staff continue to reinforce the State's public health orders, not only through its public messaging, but also by issuing Notices of Violations," said Porterville Mayor Monte Reyes, on behalf of the entire City Council. "Notices of Violation are not issued in an arbitrary manner. Each case is a result of a complaint reported by a patron or someone observing a violation. Instances of concern are easily reported using the MyPorterville app. The City ultimately strives to achieve voluntary compliance. Code Enforcement staff has been authorized to take further action, including the issuance of administrative citations, in the absence of voluntary compliance."
While some have believed the city is issuing the violation notices themselves and "shutting down local businesses" during the pandemic, it may come as a shock to learn it's, in fact, local residents who are reporting businesses who aren't complying. Over the past month, four different anonymous complaints have been filed with the MyPorterville app about different businesses in the city for not complying with both state and local guidelines, or not following the governor's orders.
The MyPorterville app also allows users to follow each report as it's completed. For example, a complaint filed six days ago against Cafe 12:2 on Olive Avenue for not following state guidelines, has been marked as completed and includes photos for the inside of the establishment. As reports come in, local code enforcement officers handle and complete them as quickly as possible.
With the new year holidays having now come and gone, county officials are anticipating a large surge in positive COVID-19 cases, as they're aware arge gatherings and parties most likely ensued over the New Year's weekend, despite pleading to the community to enjoy the holidays at home.
"For some people the constancy of COVID19 brings on fatigue, for others it is a cruel reminder that they are losing or have already lost loved ones to the virus," said Reyes on behalf of the council. "The pandemic continues to devastate our families and test the limits of our health care facilities. This past year has provided us with monumental difficulties and challenges, but it is now more critical than ever that we as a community remain vigilant and stay focused. With the increasing availability of the vaccines there is a light at the end of this tunnel, but we have to continue to do what we need to in order to take care of each other. "
The myPorterville app is available to download for free on most mobile devices.