Santa Ana City Manager Kristine Ridge signed an executive order requiring the use of face coverings in public spaces on Dec. 4. The order coincides with the existing state mandate, which requires face coverings in public when within six feet of people from other households. According to the City of Santa Ana’s website, violations of this executive order could result in an administrative citation, infraction or a misdemeanor.
“We don’t want to criminalize behavior, but we also want to make sure that people follow the law and more than anything, protect themselves and protect others. It gives us the ability to mandate and to enforce and to possibly issue infractions for those that repeatedly don’t follow those mandate orders,” Mayor-elect Vicente Sarmiento said in an interview with ABC7.
Sarmiento and current Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido proposed the mask mandate at the City Council meeting on Dec. 1, receiving unanimous support from Santa Ana officials.
There has been pushback from law enforcement, who have instead advocated for voluntary compliance and educating citizens on the risks of not wearing their masks.
“The new order will identify what specific consequences there could be — but it isn’t necessarily saying police should be out cracking down fines. There are — there could be — consequences, if they refuse to abide by the rule. But we don’t want to do that,” City Spokesman Paul Eakins said in an interview with the Voice of OC.
Exemptions for face masks were also taken into consideration in the creation of the mask mandate.
“Persons exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition who are employed in a job involving regular contact with others must wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape at the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it,” the City’s website said.
Orange County has seen an alarming rise in positivity rates with an average of 1,595.7 new cases and eight deaths daily. This rise is reported to be an 86.3% increase from two weeks before. Testing centers and government offices were closed over the Thanksgiving holiday, resulting in an undercount of cases. These numbers are expected to rise in the coming days as centers compensate for the pause in testing.
As of Dec. 14, there are 1,287 patients admitted to Orange County hospitals for COVID-19 cases, with 288 in intensive care units. The City of Santa Ana has the most positive COVID-19 cases in the county.
“Almost every zip code in north Orange County and many in south Orange County are Tier 1 — with positivity rates over 8%,” Research Manager for the Orange County Health Care Agency Dr. Curtis Condon said in an interview with the Voice of OC.
The enactment of the mandatory mask order is expected to mitigate the spread of the virus in the second wave. However, this is not the first time that a mask order has been put in place.
Ridge signed an executive order requiring essential businesses with four or more employees to enforce mask-wearing among their workers when interacting with the public on April 15. According to the mandate, “Violation of the mandatory face-covering requirement for employees is punishable as an administrative citation, an infraction, or a misdemeanor.” However, this requirement did not apply to the general public. The executive order expired on May 31.
The new mask mandate has no expiration date and will remain in effect until further notice. It is one of many new restrictions designed to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the second wave.
Amy Duong is a City News Intern for the 2020 fall quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com.