MANHATTAN BEACH, CA — The time may have come for Manhattan Beach city officials to find a way to enforce the state’s mask mandate. As COVID-19 numbers continue to increase in the city and throughout the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest order yesterday to again close many businesses may have spurred a deeper need to rethink mask enforcement.
“Due to the increase in cases and the lack of compliance, I believe we need to have enforcement past the ‘voluntary state,’ unfortunately,” Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery told MB Patch. “Facial coverings and social distancing rules need to be addressed as the ramped-up city outreach has not produced the results we wanted.” He said City Council and the city’s police chief “are discussing enforcement options related to facial coverings.”
Whether any of those options are put before City Council tonight during their regular meeting will be seen. Previously, Mayor Montgomery has encouraged individuals to report maskless customers or store staff to managers or other store staff to ask for compliance. He and council member Steve Napolitano have long felt “personal responsibility” was the message that should be put forth. In fact, the city’s new campaign to combat COVID-19 promotes just that. Banners and metal signs with “Our Community, Our Health, Our Responsibility WEAR A FACE COVERING” now hang and are posted citywide.
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Said council member Hildy Stern, “We are getting clear guidance that physical distancing and wearing face coverings are the most effective steps to take to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and yet we are still seeing non-compliance with these simple mandates. We have been struggling with enforcement of physical distancing and wearing face coverings throughout the entire course of this pandemic. It is pretty clear that people are now choosing whether or not they will comply. Without incentives or consequences, I don’t see that changing. While I am encouraged by efforts like the ‘Safe In the South Bay Pledge’ and all the messaging that is pushed out, I do feel we need to do more. We should continue to consider opportunities to affect compliance and think more creatively about ways to enforce these imperative mandates.”
Council member Nancy Hersman, who had yet to respond to MB Patch, has previously said at council meetings she does not think police should be tasked with mask enforcement. In her response to MB Patch after publication, she clarified, “While I have said it is difficult for police to be the enforcers, I have also said I would like to see Code enforcement or hiring of outside enforcement to help with this. I absolutely do agree we need to step up enforcement. Clearly people are not getting our messaging.”
Said Napolitano, “As you know, I brought up enforcement at our last meeting, but we’re going to have to go beyond talking about it. It’s not that there aren’t rules in place already—there are, from the state and county. We’ve been asking, begging and relying on folks to do the right thing but not enough are doing it. We need them to do it. I don’t want the city to start issuing citations but that might be what it takes. If we can’t fix stupid, we can at least make it pay until it fixes itself. But that has its own problems too because just issuing citations puts our public safety personnel at risk. And if one of our public safety folks gets COVID-19 and passes it on to others at work, then our whole force is down. I don’t want to hear about ‘rights and that masks don’t work. Those are just excuses for people to be selfish. For all those people, if you don’t want to be teaching your kids at home this Fall, wear a mask. For everyone who wants everything reopened, wear a mask. The only way this is all going to work out is if people think of others instead of just themselves.”
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The Manhattan Beach City Council meets virtually tonight beginning at 6 p.m. A page on the city website details how to submit questions and several ways to tune into the meeting online and by phone. COVID-19 discussions tend to take place near the start of the meeting.
This article originally appeared on the Manhattan Beach Patch