face mask on blue background
(Photo courtesy Anna Shvets/Pexels)

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors have once again failed to pass a mask mandate for indoor facilities, however may pass one next week.

While the majority of the board was in support of implementing an indoor mask mandate during their Tuesday meeting, language changes requested by Supervisor Mary Adams and the Monterey County Hospitality Association pushed back the vote to next week.

If passed on Tuesday, the ordinance would have required everyone over the age of two to wear a face covering in all indoor settings with some exceptions. It would be implemented Oct. 31, only if the county was in the substantial or high transmission rate category, as defined by the CDC.

The new language, which will come back to the board next week, will create an exception for vaccinated people to not to wear a mask indoors if they show proof of vaccination.

The proposed ordinance also requires employees who operate, manage or own the indoor facility to act as enforcers.

The Monterey County Hospitality Association asked that employees or small business owners not be the party responsible for mask enforcement, as it is not clear if the revised ordinance coming back to the board would change this requirement.

“Clarifying that our hard-working associates do not have to act as enforcers of the mask mandate will ensure that our associates themselves are safe from any potential backlash from guests that do not agree with this kind of mandate,” said Teri Owens, general manager of Embassy Suites Monterey Bay Seaside.

She said all her employees wear masks and adhere to responsible safety precautions but enforcing patrons to do the same would put employees in an unfair position.

“We do have an obligation to inform our guests about local laws and requirements,” Owens said during public comment. “But we should not have to have the obligation to confront guests that will likely have a very negative response.”

Supervisor Luis Alejo was frustrated with the language change because it delays the implementation of an indoor mask mandate, especially as the county reaches high transmission rate, according to the CDC.

However, he eventually voted in favor of revising the mandate to salvage the potential of implementing any form of an indoor mask mandate.

Had the language not been changed, the mask mandate wouldn’t have passed at all because Adams said she wouldn’t have voted in favor of it. Without Adams’ vote, the board wouldn’t have enough votes to pass the ordinance.

The two who voted against the indoor mask mandate, and will likely do the same next week, were Supervisors Chris Lopez and John Phillips. They believed it was the job of the county’s health officer Dr. Edward Moreno, who has not called for an indoor mask mandate, to make that decision. Earlier this month, Moreno stated he did not think such a mandate was necessary.

Lopez and Phillips also voted against an indoor mask mandate during the board meeting on Sept. 7 for the same reasons.

What will stay consistent in the revised ordinance is exceptions for when indoor mask-wearing is required, which includes those in their own residence, in a closed room, office or vehicle alone or with members of their household.

People, regardless of vaccine status, will also not be required to wear a mask indoors when they are performing an activity that cannot be done while wearing a face covering like eating or drinking, swimming or showering in a fitness facility, or obtaining a medical or cosmetic service requiring removal of a face covering.

In indoor facilities where everyone is vaccinated, masks will also not be required.
The indoor mask mandate proposal will come back to the board next Tuesday.