(Photo by Mick Haupt/Unsplash)

Santa Clara County officials advised business owners Wednesday to seek legal counsel rather than appealing to the county for help on what to do if customers are not respecting local and state public health guidelines to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

As businesses reopen in the county amid the pandemic, residents are required to follow the state’s face covering mandate when indoors or in close proximity to someone who does not live in their household.

State and local public health officials also continue to advise people to maintain at least 6 feet of distance between each other and stay home when feeling sick.

County spokesman Todd Naffziger said a business attorney would be better fit rather than the county to help a business owner determine how they should react and whether they can legally refuse service to a customer who refuses to wear a mask or follow other health and safety rules.

“I know we all see those memes that are on social media right now of people getting pushed out of businesses,” he said. “I know a lot of business owners don’t want to have to be that aggressive or firm with their customers, they really hope that people can come in and follow the rules.”

Naffziger said the county also runs a business call center at (408) 961-5500 that can help business owners determine the steps they must take to resume operating outside or inside.

Santa Clara County’s business owners may have different operating rules this week than they did last week as well due to the state’s new tiered system for reopening during the pandemic.

Santa Clara County is currently in the tier indicating the highest risk of viral transmission due to a rate of new cases higher than 7 per 100,000 residents.

“I know with our community there’s going to be a lot of confusion,” Naffziger said. “There’s going to be a phase of transition because now we have the state providing universal guidance for California and a framework for all of us to follow.”

Should the county move into the next tier by lowering its case rate, things like gyms and indoor dining would be allowed to resume at limited capacity and some in-person education would be allowed to resume.

That movement between tiers will depend on how residents control the virus’ spread, Naffziger said.

“If you’re going to visit a business … please follow the rules that those businesses have set in place to protect you, as well as all the other members we have in our community,” he said.