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September 21, 2021

Monterey County mask mandate fails to gain enough support

Board of Supervisors did not reach 4/5ths vote to pass ordinance

MONTEREY COUNTY — An ordinance that would have required face coverings indoors countywide failed to receive enough support from the Monterey County Board of Supervisors during a special meeting last week.

After extensive discussion and public comment at the Sept. 8 meeting, the board voted 3-2 in favor of the mask mandate; however, the urgency ordinance needed a 4/5ths vote to pass.

Supervisors Wendy Root Askew, Mary Adams and Luis Alejo were in favor of the mandate, while John Phillips and Chris Lopez dissented from the majority.

Supervisors in support of the requirement urged action to reduce Covid-19 transmission, particularly among schoolchildren, and to protect tourism workers who encounter visitors from around the world. Those against pointed to current case and hospitalization rates improving and that an ordinance was not needed at this time.

“My concerns were primarily focused in two areas, this action was not supported by our Health Officer and we were, for the first time during this pandemic, attempting to set policy within the jurisdictions of our cities as well,” said Lopez, who represents South Monterey County in District 3, on social media after Wednesday’s meeting.

Lopez added that he trusts data and science, as well as the county’s Public Health professionals, including Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno, who help make these decisions.

“In this case Dr. Moreno and his team were not recommending the action the Board was considering,” he continued. “We would have been the first Board of Supervisors in California’s 58 Counties to create a mask mandate, counter to the Health Officer’s advice.”

Alejo, who represents most of the City of Salinas in District 1, applauded his colleagues Askew and Adams “for their leadership” and expressed his disappointment with the outcome via a social media post.

“We should NOT have to wait for things to get worse before we have the courage to (reinstitute) measures that we know work to combat this upswing in the pandemic,” Alejo said.

Although the ordinance was not approved, all the supervisors affirmed their support for wearing face coverings indoors and whenever possible to reduce community spread of Covid-19.

If passed, the ordinance would have required the use of face coverings indoors by all persons over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status, with limited exceptions. The requirement was for public settings in both the unincorporated and incorporated areas of the county.

The mask mandate would have been similar to those passed in neighboring counties, including Santa Cruz County and San Luis Obispo County.

Last month, following the board’s approval, a new policy took effect requiring all Monterey County employees and the public to wear a mask in county facilities, regardless of their vaccination status. That decision came about after the county’s Covid-19 case and hospitalization rates had dramatically increased in the weeks prior.

As of Monday’s data, Monterey County has the second lowest amount of cases per 100,000 people (10.7), a seven-day average, among the state’s 58 counties.

“While there is no countywide face covering requirement, they are still required in many settings,” according to Maia Carroll, the county’s communications coordinator, in a news release. “State and local requirements and recommendations remain in effect.”

In addition to mask requirements for employees and the public in all county facilities, Monterey County’s Health Officer strongly recommends all residents wear face coverings indoors regardless of vaccination status.

The state is requiring all residents, regardless of vaccination status, wear face coverings in schools, on public transit, in emergency/homeless shelters, healthcare, correctional and long-term care settings. Unvaccinated residents are also required to wear a face covering in indoor public settings and businesses.


ORIGINAL STORY (9/8/21):

MONTEREY COUNTY — An ordinance that would have required face coverings indoors countywide failed to receive enough support from the Monterey County Board of Supervisors during a special meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The board voted 3-2 in favor of the mask mandate; however, the urgency ordinance needed a 4/5ths vote to pass.

Supervisors Wendy Root Askew, Mary Adams and Luis Alejo were in favor of the mandate, while John Phillips and Chris Lopez dissented.

If passed, the ordinance would have required the use of face coverings indoors by all persons over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status, with limited exceptions. The requirement was for public settings in both the unincorporated and incorporated areas of the county.

The mask mandate would have been similar to those passed in neighboring counties, including Santa Cruz County and San Luis Obispo County.

Last month, following the board’s approval, a new policy took effect requiring all county employees and the public to wear a mask in county facilities, regardless of their vaccination status. That decision came about after the county’s Covid-19 case and hospitalization rates dramatically increased.

This is a developing story.

Ryan Cronk
Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.
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