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What's The Proper Way To Confront A Social Distancing Rule-Breaker?

A man wears a scarf around his face as a makeshift face mask in Huntington Park. (Chava Sanchez/Laist)
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The coronavirus pandemic has already caused a total upheaval of our daily lives, and now we get to deal with one more thing: dilemmas over social etiquette.

Perhaps you see a shopper buying groceries without a mask. Or a stranger who doesn't move out of the way to properly distance himself from you during a walk around the neighborhood. Maybe you've even witnessed a party being held. What do you do?

Do you politely ask them to abide by physical distancing rules? Angrily confront them and threaten to file a report to the county? Or maybe it's best to mind your own business?

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A member of our coronavirus Facebook group, Rachael Ann, asked this question recently: "What to do about neighbors having parties this weekend? I'm more concerned for them and their families' health than myself..."

The suggestions ran the gamut:

Some suggested just letting it go.

Others said it was an opportunity to have a discussion about the safety of the community.

Some urged calling the cops -- which prompted strong pushback from other commenters who said police involvement could escalate things in a potentially dangerous way.

Another responded with: "#nosnitching."

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And another said simply: Spray them with the hose.

In the end, Rachael Ann said she opted not to call the cops -- and waited till the party was over to have a civil conversation with the party hosts instead. But the discussion highlighted the kind of uncomfortable social situation many people are now finding themselves in.

For the record, the L.A. County Department of Public Health has a few options for reporting rule-breakers. You can call in a complaint at (888) 700-9995, email the department, or submit an online complaint form.

But sometimes the situation calls for a less official, and maybe more personal, approach. This was the topic of conversation on today's episode of our newsroom's public affairs show, AirTalk with Larry Mantle on 89.3 KPCC. Here are a few highlights from the discussion on how various people have handled these thorny situations:


I was in the post office just a few minutes ago because I had to mail something certified. And I noticed a couple of people who were in front of me that weren't wearing any kind of facial protection. And it was rather disturbing.

They were young, and that's fine. But when they were done, they went over to the exit door and they were talking, and as I was exiting, I said, 'You know, you're inside a building and we have a standing recommendation now from the city, that when you're inside a building with other people, you should be wearing something over your face.'

And the male of the two said, 'Yeah, I know.' And just kind of didn't say anything else. And as much as I would like to have continued the conversation I decided not to. This person didn't seem to think it applied to them.

- Marty in Hollywood


I'm a bus operator for Metro. And, you know, I see that a lot of people are riding the bus without wearing masks, and policy is that we have to continue in service. We can't deny service, even if they're not wearing a mask.

And, you know, I would like the buses to adhere to the same policy that everyone else -- other markets and everybody -- is following, because there's a lot of riders who are being subjected to this, including myself as a driver, people not wearing their masks. We have children sometimes on the buses. And that policy should be implemented throughout. There's no room for six foot [distancing] because the benches are so close together. And now with 10% less buses out there, we're going to be even more crowded because there are people still riding the buses.

- Carlos in Highland Park


"Last week, I was in my local 99-cent store wearing a mask and gloves. But at the checkout stand I was no more than two feet away from the checker. This young 20-something girl had nothing on -- no protection. And I told her how shocked I was that she wasn't protecting herself and our customers.

Anyway, she said, 'Oh, only old people get sick.' I just couldn't believe it. So I asked to speak to the manager, and this young woman came up with no protection either. And told me: 'Well, the government hasn't told us we have to use protection.' So I told her, 'Well, ignorance is bliss, but this is death.' Yeah, I wouldn't be back in the 99-cent store."

- Danielle in Camarillo

How have you been handling social distancing faux pas when you see them? Let us know in our Facebook group or on Twitter.

You can listen to the full AirTalk segment below: