Santa Clara County stores in violation of COVID-19 orders to face fines

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Fearful that Black Friday shoppers will crowd stores in violation of public health orders - with the potential to get sick or infect others with the coronavirus - Santa Clara County officials have announced a crackdown.

Health inspectors sid there is no grace period and they will be issuing citations after checking big retailers and malls to ensure they’re not crowded beyond the allowable 25% capacity.

County Councilman James Williams implored shoppers and merchants to do everything possible to minimize the spread of the virus.

"The situation’s not getting better here in Santa Clara County with respect to COVID," he said. "It’s actually getting a lot worse."

Director of Community and Business Engagement Michael Balliet explained during the county’s daily COVID-19 briefing that fines will start at $250 and could run into the thousands.

"It’s important to note that enforcement officers will not be asking for money on the spot," Balliet said. "Business owners that are assessed a fine will be provided the appropriate instructions on how to pay that fine."

Merchants cited for overcrowding have the ability to appeal the citation.

The crackdown will run until at least Sunday.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez said she understands that everyone wants a Black Friday bargain, but is asking shoppers not to crowd into stores.

"Know that you’re gonna wait, and let’s bring the knowledge that we’re gonna wait," she said. "Be patient."

Santa Clara County has reported a record 512 new cases of COVID-19 and 45 new hospitalizations as of Wednesday. Dr. Marty Fenstersheib is the head of COVID-19 testing in Santa Clara County, and he said county officials are "really, really concerned."

"All of the metrics we have been following that have done well in previous months are now going up very steeply."