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I-Team takes firsthand look at coronavirus code compliance efforts in Palm Springs

Face coverings, outdoor-only operations, and social-distancing are all part of Palm Springs' new order to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. The city made sure the message is hard to miss with banners, electronic message board and poster, in both English and Spanish, can be seen all over the city.

And who makes sure the rules are followed? The city's code compliance officers.

"Our job is to educate, and it's about compliance," said Kristi Smith, one of Palm Springs' code compliance officers.

News Channel 3's I-Team investigator Peter Daut followed some of the city's code compliance officers as they checked out some popular businesses in downtown Palm Springs.

The first stop was Sherman's Deli and Bakery. Code compliance officers walked along the perimeter to look at customers and staff. The officers then went inside and spoke with the manager.

"Good to see you. We just want to say, 'Thanks so much. Everything looks really good. Any questions or anything you have about anything new that's going on," officers told the manager.

Everything checked out and no citations were issued. Officers left moments later. The owner says he's glad that code compliance stopped by.. to make sure his customers stay safe

"I don't have a problem with it. I mean if someone's nervous about having code compliance come in, then they're doing something wrong," said Sam Harris, owner of Sherman's.

The next stop is Lulu's California Bistro on Palm Canyon. Once again, officers start by walking outside the restaurant. After determining that everything is in compliance, officers have a pleasant chat with the managers.

"I know it's some challenging times out there for them, but they're really helping us making sure that we follow the state, city guidelines, making sure that everything's going good," said Chris Bluhm, the manager at Lulu's.

After checking out another restaurant, code compliance officers hit the streets of downtown Palm Springs. Officers approached several people not wearing face masks.

"Hi. Can you please put on a facial covering? Thank you so much," officers tell one person not wearing a face mask.

Officers are happy to hand one out to people who don't have them. Smith said the majority of interactions with the public are positive.

"Cause everyone's kind of scared, even though it's been going on for a while. It's still new. No one's really sure what this is all about," Smith said.

Pedestrians who spoke with Peter agree.

"My health matters. And I do not want somebody else to interfere in my life by making me sick," said Denzel McNash, a pedestrian walking through downtown.

Lieutenant Mike Villegas says the goal is to gain compliance by talking to people about the face-covering order.

The I-Team has been reviewing the code compliance reports weekly and at this point, no citations have been issued to the general public. We did find that there have been citations issued to a few businesses.

Villegas says those were either operating when they weren't supposed to or weren't maintaining social-distancing.

"But that's been just a couple of businesses. For the most part, everybody is trying to work together to make sure that they comply," Villegas said.

Villegas says most of the issues with face coverings involve visitors from out of town but that's why the city is hoping the signs will help educate people to always have them on.

"We're not trying to get in any verbal or physical altercation with people not wearing their face coverings. But at the same time, they have to understand that we will issue a citation if they refuse to comply with not wearing a face covering," Villegas said.

Code compliance says it averages about 160 random spot-checks on the weekends which includes vacation rentals. That's about the same number of complaints made to the city's code-compliance hotline.

Peter Daut has been covering Palm Springs' coronavirus prevention efforts since the city started to ramp up its enforcement in July.

Check out his I-Team report on this below:

Coronavirus / I-Team / Investigative / News Headlines / Special Reports / Top Stories

Peter Daut

KESQ News Team


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