It's been more than a week since Governor Gavin Newsom issued a mandate effectively requiring almost all Californians to wear a face covering in public, but the question persists.

Just how exactly is the mandate going to be enforced. For the most part so far across the state any kind of enforcement of the mandate has been voluntary.

And if there was any such enforcement what would the punishment actually be? That's vague as well. The state has said the order could be potentially enforced as a misdemeanor which would be accompanied by a fine or worse. One agency that could be used to enforce the mandate is the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

As far as any kind of local enforcement, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said his office isn't enforcing the mandate. And Porterville Police stated it will only answer calls if the matter of wearing a mask becomes an issue but it won't be making any citations or arrests for not wearing a mask.

For the time being as long as face coverings are a mandate, it's more about education than enforcement much in the same way as wearing a seat belt and not smoking in public became accepted.

States, including California, have a “Click or Ticket” campaign in which people can be given tickets for not wearing their seat belt.

When it came to essentially not allowing smoking in public, the state placed the duty of that enforcement onto local and county jurisdictions. Theoretically, local law enforcement or health agencies can enforce no smoking restrictions but practices such as not smoking in public and wearing a seat belt have become virtually automatic.

Newsom has said state and local agencies could be called upon to “exercise a little bit of persuasion” when it comes to the mask mandate.

When it comes to the state level, any state agency that regulates licenses for businesses could possibly be used to enforce the requirement.

But Newsom basically said he wants any kind of enforcement to be really a last resort and is also depending on education.

“We're not looking to fine people,” he has said. “We're looking to education people, encourage people. And to the extent that people flaunt and abuse, which may be the exception, then we have many tools in the tool kit.”

As far as if Newsom has the authority to issue such a mandate the answer is yes. Under the California Emergency Services Act Newsom can issue health mandates during a pandemic.

And unless face coverings are shown to be ineffective, Newsom's mandate would likely hold up against any legal challenge.

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