California Attorney General Becerra unsure how to enforce governor's statewide mask order

On Thursday, as cases of coronavirus continued to rise in California, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order requiring the use of face coverings in public spaces.

While in favor of the directive, California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra admitted on Friday that he is unsure how the order will be enforced.

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“Try to enforce that,” Becerra told FOX 11’s Elex Michaelson in an exclusive interview on The Issue Is. “Do we have police officers patrolling the streets looking for folks who aren’t wearing masks, or do we have them doing things that prevent other, more serious, types of crime…it’s very tough to give you a real precise answer.”

Becerra’s practical concern echoes the order itself, which does not make clear how enforcement would take place, or how those who don’t wear face coverings would be penalized.

The issue of enforcement has been further complicated by the responses at the local level. Until Thursday’s order, counties had full discretion over their individual mask-wearing policies, and many intend to maintain that autonomy.

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On Friday, for example, the Sacramento County sheriff’s office said they would not enforce Governor Newsom’s order. In Orange County, after previously saying they would not enforce a county-level advisory, the sheriff’s office has yet to express whether they will enforce the state’s order.

One former state official has come out in favor of the order though, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who tweeted his response to Newsom’s order.

“This is 100% the right move. This will help us beat this terrible virus. The science is unanimous - if we all wear masks, we slow down the spread and can reopen safely. It’s not a political issue. Anyone making it a political issue is an absolute moron who can’t read.”

Newsom’s order comes as the number of cases in California surpassed 165,000, a record 2,126 of which were reported on Wednesday alone. The state’s total death count sits at 5,360 as of Friday.

The order itself is aimed at requiring face masks in “high-risk situations” such as indoor public spaces, on public transit, while obtaining services from the healthcare sector, in the workplace, or outdoors where social distancing is not possible.

Newsom’s statewide order also includes exceptions, including for those under the age of two, for those who are hearing impaired in situations where seeing someone’s mouth is essential,  those with medical conditions that prevent use of a mask, and those eating at a restaurant, as long as they are six feet away from those not in their party.

While enforcement of these practices is still a question, the Attorney General said the obligation to do what is morally and legally right falls to all Californians.

“I have an 86 year old mother who lives with me,” Becerra said.”I am going to make sure I’m following the rules. If I do something that makes it so my mother contracts the virus, I’m never going to forgive myself.”

“So I hope people understand that when the Governor instituted this order, it was for the good of all of us, and we have a moral obligation to abide by this order, and we have a legal obligation, and while you think you can evade it because it’s tough to have our police officers patrolling and looking for folks who aren’t wearing masks, it’s upon us, it’s on each of us to follow the rules.”

In a wide-ranging interview on The Issue Is, Becerra also discussed his recently announced list of reforms he hopes will be adopted by the state’s police forces, protestors’ calls to #DefundThePolice, and the Supreme Court’s recent decisions on DACA and workplace discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

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