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September 21, 2021

Monterey County considers countywide mask mandate

Supervisors to review ordinance that requires face coverings indoors

MONTEREY COUNTY — Monterey County Board of Supervisors will review implementation of a countywide indoor mask mandate during a special meeting Wednesday. 

The supervisors are expected to endorse it after earlier approving a mask mandate for all county buildings.

The decision came after a late August direction from the supervisors to county staff to put together the framework for such a mandate in time for early September. The urgency ordinance would only require one reading for full adoption within the county rather than two meetings for regular ordinances.

“It would address mask mandates throughout the county, including in the incorporated cities,” said Charles McKee, the county’s chief administrative officer, during an Aug. 25 press briefing. “It would cover essentially all businesses where you have interaction with other people, whether it’s staff that are coming there or particularly customer-serving businesses.”

The order’s text was planned to be similar to ones recently adopted in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Santa Cruz County.

“The idea is to have as many people wearing face coverings when they’re interacting with other persons; however, there would be exemptions and exceptions,” McKee said.

Such exemptions would include children younger than 2 years old, people alone in a building and people who are eating or drinking. McKee said there would be understanding for parents or educators dealing with high-energy children age 2 and up, who would be required to wear a mask.

“We’re going to have to recognize that can be a challenging situation and not necessarily come down with a heavy hand with somebody whose child is not wearing a mask and pulling it off,” he said.

The county is anticipating differences of opinion on masks, McKee said. 

Direction on law enforcement response to those who went without masks was not something he said had been finalized, but that administrative citations were being considered.

“We think the law does support this kind of mandate in this kind of situation,” McKee said. “We just hope that we’ll get as much compliance as possible. That will be the big challenge, what do you do next as far as, are we going to arrest people for not wearing masks?”

According to McKee, the mandate was in part an answer to people looking for the county to be a leader in terms of direction on pandemic response. Though the county has received communications both for and against masks, the “vast majority are asking the county to enact a countywide mask mandate,” he said.

McKee said the county has received letters from many of the elected officials within the county requesting the mandate. 

Similarly, business owners who didn’t want to tell customers they wanted to enforce mask policies asked the county to take responsibility.

“With a mandate from the county, it gives them the tools to say the county is mandating this, therefore I have to mandate customers come into my business,” McKee said.

Sean Roney
Sean Roney is the reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.
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