SLO Democrats want local officials to make face masks mandatory


The San Luis Obispo County Democratic Party adopted a resolution on June 8 urging the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and local city councils to require face masks in both indoor and outdoor public spaces when physical distancing measures are difficult to attain.

TO WEAR OR NOT TO WEAR The SLO County Democratic Party is urging local officials to make face masks mandatory, but other local groups argue against the potential requirement. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • TO WEAR OR NOT TO WEAR The SLO County Democratic Party is urging local officials to make face masks mandatory, but other local groups argue against the potential requirement.
In a press release, SLO Democratic Party Chair Rita Casaverde stated that the organization is increasingly worried by the reluctance of the SLO County Board of Supervisors to provide clear safety requirements regarding the use of face masks during the pandemic.

Currently, the county recommends wearing face masks, following social distancing guidelines, and hand-washing. Both Monterey and Santa Barbara counties have adopted face mask requirements.

“Our community has made too many sacrifices to let our guard down now, and our resolution is asking for the bare minimum: If you are in a public space where 6-foot physical distancing is difficult, you must wear a mask,” Casaverde said in the press release.

The local Democrats' resolution also urges local governments to enable businesses to refuse service to anyone not wearing a face mask, allocate funding for a communications campaign to inform residents and out-of-county visitors about the measures, and provide digital advertising on social media and printed signs to local businesses.

The group states that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), among other medical experts, have said facial coverings help prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the CDC website, “A cloth face covering may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others.”

Cloth face coverings, the CDC states, provide an extra layer to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.

According to SLO County Democratic Party, a face mask requirement would also remove the point of friction between mask advocates and opponents.

The Republican Party of San Luis Obispo County (RPSLO) told New Times that this isn’t a resolution it would support. The group is focused on liberty, freedom, and personal responsibility, local party chair Randall Jordan said.

“Anything that the government enacts to limit that freedom, we are against,” Jordan said.

He said he and his family were on their way back to the Central Coast from a week-long vacation. Jordan’s family traveled through New Mexico, which he said was a negative experience because the state has a mask requirement.

“We couldn’t go through the drive-through with our grandchildren and get them a meal because we didn’t wear a mask,” he said. “We couldn’t go into the service stations and use the restroom, again, because we didn’t wear a mask.”

RPSLO believes that everyone has the right to make up their own mind.

“People that want to wear masks in public or store owners that want to require them, that’s their prerogative. If they want to do that, then we don’t have to frequent those stores,” Jordan said.

Members of the Central Coast Health Coalition—a regional non-partisan group formed to advocate for consumer choice in health—say requiring face masks could be potentially harmful to people with medical conditions that make it hard to breathe.

Coalition member Joy Erb said she recently had this conversation with her local church, which asked its attendees to wear a mask at its upcoming in-person service.

Erb wrote a letter to her church in response.

“I do understand that many people are very afraid of the COVID-19 virus, despite the fact that the death rate is similar to that of the annual flu,” she wrote. “What you may not have considered is that the requiring of face-masks could cause negative health consequences to those who wear them.”

She cited SLO County Public Health Director Penny Borenstein in her letter. In a May 8 press briefing, Borenstein said that she refrained from mandating masks for the public because of a lack of information available to prove that masks are helpful in blocking virus-sized particles and preventing infection.

“When used improperly, masks can become a growing ground for germs akin to a Petri dish,” Erb states in the letter.

The CDC recommends that face masks get washed after every use. In a May 1 press briefing, Borenstein said the community should refrain from wearing medical-grade masks and that if an individual chooses to wear a mask, a fabric mask was their only alternative.

“And there again, they have to be with the right material and made properly and the right elastic and used properly and cleaned properly,” Borenstein said. ∆

—Karen Garcia

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