In their third attempt to do so in as many weeks, Monterey County supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to require some residents to wear a mask indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
The mandate will require all residents over age 2 to wear a face covering indoors, but fully vaccinated residents will be allowed to forego the requirement if they show proof of their vaccination status before entering a building.
As has been required by the state since its full mask mandate was lifted in June, unvaccinated residents will still be required to wear a face covering at all times when indoors in public spaces.
The board had initially planned to vote on the proposed mandate at its meeting last week, but pushed the vote to Tuesday after both Supervisor Mary Adams and the Monterey County Hospitality Association requested changes to the ordinance’s language, which originally placed the onus of mask enforcement on business owners and employees.
Adams and Supervisors Wendy Root Askew and Luis Alejo ultimately supported the mandate, as did the MCHA.
“The hospitality association and business (groups) in general appreciate the fact that the supervisors listened and were able to come up with a solution that was workable for hospitality,” MCHA Government Affairs Director Gary Cursio said. “We really appreciate that and we understand what a tough decision this was.”
The board failed in its first effort to enact an indoor mask mandate Sept. 9 with three of the five supervisors in support, one shy of the four-fifths support the mandate needed to take effect immediately as an urgency ordinance.
At that time, many other counties in the Bay Area and along the peninsula had already enacted their own indoor mask mandates, regardless of vaccination status, amid concerns over the virus’ spread among unvaccinated people and the ultra-contagious delta variant.
Monterey County’s neighbor to the north, Santa Cruz County, has had its own mask mandate in place since mid-August.
Up until now, the county has had a handful of other pandemic-related mandates in place, including requirements to wear a face covering inside county facilities, on public transit, in schools and in health care, correctional and long-term care facilities as well as a requirement for county employees to be fully vaccinated by Thursday.
County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno has argued over the last two months that he did not see a blanket mask mandate as a necessity for the county because of its high vaccination rate and relatively low rate of viral transmission.
As of Tuesday, 81 percent of county residents age 12 and up have received at least one vaccine dose, according to data from the Monterey County Health Department.
The mask requirement will take effect Oct. 29 if the county’s community transmission rate, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is categorized as “substantial” or “high.”
The mandate would then last at least 30 days, according to county officials, unless the Board of Supervisors elects to extend it or terminate it early.